The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is a long, meticulous, and thrilling novel written by Stieg Larsson filled with incredible characters and twists. Thankfully, the film is given proper justice by film maker extraordinaire, David Fincher, who is responsible for films such as Fight Club, Se7en, and, more recently, The Social Network. Now, this isn’t going to be a comparison between the book and the movie, nor is it of the Swedish and the American film. Instead, I will solely be talking about where this film works wonderfully and the areas of small imperfections.
For Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig), life as a journalist may very well be over after being accused of libel by a multi-billionaire. Despite these claims, an old CEO, Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plummer), hires Mikael to solve a forty year old mystery concerning the disappearance, and possible murder, of his grandniece, Harriet. Blomkvist is not alone in his investigation, however. Enter Lisbeth Salander, an anti-social hacker savant with a disturbing past, present, and possible future. Together, these two investigators get mixed up in a decades old Vanger family drama that seems impossibly twisted, yet all too real.
This right here is a bold movie. It seems obvious that Fincher didn’t care if people were put off by the disturbing scenes and violence because he had a vision of the story and he was going to tell it the way that he wanted to. I have to respect that. There are so many movies now that are dimmed down in order to appeal to more people. This is not one of those films. In fact, there is one scene in particular that will leave the viewer deeply disturbed for days to come. Kudos to you Fincher and company.
So, yes, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is a brutal movie, but make no mistake, it isn’t brutal for no reason. The original novel and now this movie has a particular message that it is trying to get across, and using the unrestrained nature of its violence the message is not only gotten across, but hurled at your face. That being said it is a message about the evils performed against women. Stieg Larsson’s original title for his story was actually “Men Who Hate Women”, which I think is even better than the title now. It’s a difficult truth to accept.
But what about how the film looked? Well, like everything Fincher has ever done, it looks phenomenal. The sets are all perfect, and Hedeby Island is really something to behold in the winter. The movie does a great job at making you feel the scene, which means it really feels cold when its winter and spring really brings warmer relief. This may sound weird, but you have to see the movie to really get what I’m talking about.
Every actor does a great job in this movie, but there is a star making performance here by the now great Rooney Mara as Lisbeth Salander. This is such a difficult, layered character that an actress has to pull her off just right for it to work and Mara plays the troubled hacker to perfection.
One small complaint that I have is part of the way that the mystery is unravelled. While reading the book, it’s easy to follow what the characters are doing because it is written out for you. In the movie, you have to watch very closely. A lot of the story involves looking at pictures, investigating websites, and reading emails. I have to admit, making a movie like that and keeping the viewer invested in the mystery is no easy task, and Fincher pulls it off, but it was still hard to really understand what the characters were doing at some points.
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is truly an exceptional piece of film making that should go down as a classic. There are very little flaws to be seen here, and that is a rare thing with a story as complex and contrived as this. This film is a slow burn, but the outcome and the characters make the entire two and a half hours worth it. If you haven’t seen this one, go and see it.