The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo – Review

We knew it was going to be tense, disturbing and horrific, yet after watching this film you come away craving more. David Fincher’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is a brutally brilliant film in which nothing is as it seems.

The film will have a battle for fans’ affections, as it attempts to give a Hollywood sheen to the cult 2009 movie by Neils Arden Oplev – both based on Stieg Larsson’s hit novel of the same name. In particular, can Rooney Mara live up to the performance of Noomi Rapace, who starred in the original Swedish adaptation, as the film’s heroine?

Bond actor, Daniel Craig, stars as journalist Mikael Blomkvist, alongside Mara (The Social Network) as the ‘mentally incapable’ punk computer hacker Lisbeth Salander. Together, they team up to crack the unsolved case of a girl who disappeared 40 years ago on the remote Hedeby Island in Sweden.

It is bizarre to see Christopher Plummer – who was once singing his heart out as Captain Von Trapp in The Sound Of Music – play frail, yet crafty Henrik Vagner, a rich businessman who has been agonising over what happened to his niece, Harriet, almost four decades before.
Fincher’s previous films Alien 3 and Fight Club used urban or derelict prison settings to create a sense of claustrophobia and impending evil, but here he manages it with beautifully captured, vast and bleak Nordic landscapes. He is also no stranger to unconventional and strong female leads including Sigourney Weaver (Alien 3) and Helena Bonham-Carter (Fight Club). Mara’s portrayal of the brutal and unpredictable Lisbeth can now be added to that list.

From the moment you lay eyes on Lisbeth, I was taken aback; her jet black hair flopping over her pale white face and black pierced lips reminded me of a warped Snow White. Her bleached blonde eyebrows make her emotionless eyes pop out of her head.

Mara’s intense performance peaks when she seeks revenge on her corrupt and abusive legal guardian, Nils Bjurman. The noisy and brutal sexual violation on screen is harrowing. Now it becomes clear why the film earned an 18 rating. Bjurman is so loathsome that even Lisbeth’s equally violent revenge gains our sympathy.

But while those scenes are effective, some other key events feel rushed as Fincher struggles to condense the rich material of the books into a feature film. This includes some members of the Vagner family who barely appear on screen and the backgrounds of Blomkvist and Lisbeth.

Although the opening credits, which resemble a hellish James Bond sequence with music by Nine Inch Nails’ Trent Reznor, are very powerful and Daniel Craig brings some flair to the film, but his Blomkvist is no 007.  It is Mara who steals most of the scenes they share, leaving his character feeling flat at times – a situation not helped by the omission of background details from the novels.

But he does add to the mounting tension as the pair’s investigation reaches its brutal finale – when the pace of the film hits full stride and leaves the characters in a deadly race against time.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is sure to be one of the most complicated, tense and shocking murder mysteries you will ever see. It takes you on a roller-coaster of emotions and you come away desperate to see the next instalment.

Fincher has an option to film the two sequels – The Girl Who Played With Fire and The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest – but has yet to commit to the project. Let’s hope he does – after watching The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo and Mara’s stunning performance, we can’t wait to see them.

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