The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo – Review

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo – Review

Review by FilmFella Henry – 7.7/10

After the success of Stieg Larsson’s novel Män Som Hatar Kvinnor (Men Who Hate Women), director Niels Arden Oplev adapted it to the big screen, receiving critical acclaim for the Swedish film The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (2009). Now David Fincher is having a punt, aiming to bring the story to a wider, English speaking audience, with another adaptation of the same name.

Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) is a rogue journalist with both reputation and magazine hanging by a thread. Recruited by aging industrialist Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plummer), Blomkvist is charged with investigating the mysterious disappearance of Vanger’s niece Harriet. Despite his journalistic prowess, Blomkvist soon struggles against the tenacity of Vanger’s family and calls on the help of tech wizz Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara). Together they slowly piece together the pieces of the puzzle, amidst growing opposition and personal strife.

Normally, I would brand such a straight US remake as ‘one for the idiots who can’t read subtitles.’ However, in this case I make an exception. While Oplev’s Swedish version was pretty good, I found it suffered from an overly convoluted plot, made worse by the multitude of character names being fired at the audience. Remembering a whole host of characters and understanding their relationships to one another (a key factor in the plot) is often trying; having to do it through subs is just a headache. Ultimately, I couldn’t help but feel I would have enjoyed Oplev’s film more if I spoke Swedish.

And this is where Fincher comes in. The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (2011) is remarkably close to the original, retaining the Swedish location, character names and vast majority of the narrative. But crucially, I found the use of English language a definite boon as deciphering the Vanger family tree became less of a chore and more of an intrigue.

But Fincher’s version isn’t just a simple translation exercise, as with Michael Haneke’s Funny Games U.S. Here, Fincher brings his established directorial style to the fore, with his usual high quality camera work on show complimented by Trent Reznor’s moody score. The actors benefit too: Daniel Craig pulls off one of his best performances in years (which I personally found superior to Michael Nyqvist’s version of Blomkvist) while Rooney Mara easily equals Noomi Rapace’s notable character work. The supporting cast of Stellan Skarsgard, Steven Berkoff and Christopher Plummer also shine, with their combined acting presence often stealing scenes from the main players.

Ultimately, the story has its limitations: dualistic characters, mandatory sexual chemistry and a blatant sequel ending prevent The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (2011) from punching higher than its weight. That said, the film is a definite improvement to its predecessor and is a definite plus on Fincher’s showreel. A recommended watch.


About filmfellahenry
Film reviewer, script writer and occasional painter. Fan of Lumet, Aronofsky and Kubrick, with a good measure of early John Carpenter thrown in. Particularly like post-apocalyptic sci-fi, horror and fantasy film genres.

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