PG Cooper: The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo Review

Posted: December 27, 2011 by Daniel Simpson (PG Cooper) in PG Cooper's Movie Reviews

Release date: December 20th, 2011

Running time: 158 minutes

Written by: Steven Zaillian

Based on: The novel of the same name by Stieg Larsson

Directed by: David Fincher

Starring: Rooney Mara, Daniel Craig, Christopher Plummer, Stellan Skarsgard, Yorick van Wageningen, Robin Wright, and Steven Berkoff

David Fincher is one of the best directors working today. Over his career, he’s directed several great films from Se7en to The Social Network. After such a great career, projects he attaches himself to gain a lot of interest from film fans. I was particularly interested when I discovered he’d be directing an adaptation of the novel “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo”. I didn’t want to go in with preconceived expectations of what to see, so I avoided the novels and the original Swedish films. I was excited to see what Fincher was gonna do. This excitement sky rocketed when I saw the first trailer. I had a feeling the film was gonna be one of the best of the year. Now that I’ve seen it, I can safely say The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo does not disappoint.

The plot revolves around two people, Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara) and Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig). Lisbeth is a computer hacker and an investigative reporter who’s most recent task was a background check on Blomkvist for a man named Dirch Frode (Steven Berkoff). Frode represents Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plummer), a retired CEO who wants Blomkvist to research the forty year old murder of  Henrik’s niece. Meanwhile, Lisbeth has to deal with legal problems given that she is still a ward of the state who has diagnosed mental problems. The two will eventually come together to solve the mystery while also uncovering a tangled web of lies.

Minutes into the film, I knew I was in for something special. After a brief prologue, the film has a spectacular opening scene of black silhouettes set to Karen O’s cover of “Immigrant Song”. It’s an awesome opening and a credit sequence that James Bond would be proud of. From there, the film never drops down. The film remains brilliant scene after scene despite an intimidating run time of two hours and forty minutes. There’s a lot of reasons for this. A key one is the great story. The central mystery is very interesting and watching the relationships between all these characters develop. This owed to both Stieg Larsson for his original novel, as well as Steven Zaillian’s awesome adaptation of his work. This is one of the best, tightest screenplays of the year. Some may complain that the film is too slow, and it’s true, the film is slow, but in the best possible way. This is a film that takes it’s time to tell it’s story and doesn’t rush anything. In that way, this film is very reminiscent of Drive, another one of the best film’s of the year.

Leading the film is Rooney Mara with her brilliant performance as Lisbeth, the title “girl with the dragon tattoo”. I had previously seen Mara in Fincher’s last film The Social Network and assumed Fincher casted her in this film because he was impressed with her work there. But from what I understand, Fincher was very hesitant about casting Mara and she really had to fight for the part. Personally, I’m thrilled she did because Mara is fantastic here. Lisbeth is an unforgettable character. Every look, every movement, every line, it’s all very captivating. Mara’s biggest accomplishment is playing a character with so many different, almost contradictory traits. Lisbeth needs to be a badass, but she also needs to have a softer side. She needs to be scary, but she also needs to feel vulnerable. Mara balances this all perfectly. The character is also a very demanding part and it’s clear Mara put herself through a lot. There’s one subplot in this film where something so horrible happens to Lisbeth you’ll feel terrible. When she later gets her revenge, it’s such a satisfying scene that I wanted to get up and cheer.

While Mara is the clear standout, the rest of the cast is also quite good. Daniel Craig is good as Mikael Blomkvist. He’s an interesting character, but Craig also does a good job anchoring the film in reality. Lisbeth is such a strong, larger than life character that the film needed a more normal person. Christopher Plummer (who’s had a real good year between this and Beginners) is also quite good as Henrik, the man who hires Blomkvist. He’s a lot of fun to watch, and I found myself really liking his character. We also see great performances from known actors like Stellan Skarsgard and Robin Wright, as well as lesser known actors like Steve Berkoff, Yorick van Wageningen, and others. I will also say when the villain reveals themselves, they give a brilliant performance.

David Fincher brings his masterful directorial touches to the proceedings. Nobody can rev up suspense better than David Fincher. While this definitely isn’t a horror film, there are points where you’ll want to scream at the screen for characters to get out of certain situations. The film can also be quite disturbing, with several moments reminding me of Se7en. In fact, it was really nice to see that darker side of Fincher come back. After lighter films like The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and The Social Network, it was awesome to see Fincher return to his darker roots. The film also has some amazing cinematography, tight editing, and another kick ass score from Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. What makes the score great is how different it was from the score they delivered for The Social Network.

While I expected great acting, great direction, and an intelligent script, what I didn’t expect was to be as emotionally sucked into the film as I was. I really felt bad for Henrik Vanger and found his story very stirring. I also find Lisbeth to be a very tragic character who I felt a lot of sympathy for. While they don’t fully reveal her backstory, they tease it enough that you really feel she’s been through hard times. Not to mention the shit she goes through in this film is extreme and no one should have to go through it. Finally, I found the relationship between Lisbeth and Mikael to be very interesting and strangely touching. I can’t wait for the sequels because I really want to see where this relationship goes.

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is an incredible film, but one I can’t recommend for everyone. It’s immense run time will definitely turn off some viewers, as will the dark and disturbing nature of the story. But if you think you can handle it, and you wanna see a piece of great film making, I urge you to see The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. I guarantee it’s a film you won’t soon forget.

Rating: A+

  1. so glad you enjoyed this movie! i liked it too! and i am so glad to read you were emotionally invested, as many critics were not. thank you!

  2. CMrok93 says:

    It’s certainly worth seeing if you missed the original. If you saw it, however, there’s no way of unseeing it, and nothing in the new one to top it. Craig and Mara are great here though and Fincher brings so much more to this film like I was expecting too. Good review PG.

  3. Metal Legend says:

    Lisbeth was better in the original Swedish films!

    • pgcooper1939 says:

      I think it depends on what you see first. I thought both actresses did en equally good job, but it’s the one you see first that sticks with you.

      It’s like how no matter how good Daniel Craig is as James Bond, Sean Connery will always be the real James Bond for me.

  4. vinnieh says:

    Great post, I’ve just begun reading the book and will probably watch the film when I finish reading it.

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