Movie Review: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

I saw the Swedish version of Dragon Tattoo a year or two ago, and I was just so generally unimpressed with it for some reason. I just couldn’t get into it. So the thought of a remake was pretty unappealing to me on a few levels, and just about the only thing that could get me pumped up for it was if it landed in the hands of a director I really enjoy. Like David Fincher! I thought this new version improved upon the Swedish version in almost every way.

It’s a triumph in two categories. The first being in the story department. It’s a complex story without being overly diluted with nonsense. There’s the whole Mikael storyline of investigating a murder that took place 40 years ago, which takes place parallel to the story of Lisbeth breaking free from her financial constraints of living as a troubled youth in the care of legal guardians. A whole intricate plot gets worked out through the course of investigation, eventually Mikael and Lisbeth form an investigative team, and well, there’s no point in ruining anything specific about the details.

The only reason that this plot stays compelling, though, is because of the characters. Mikael is a truly likable protagonist, who seems to have the best intentions, and Daniel Craig gives a performance that really makes you care about what happens to the guy. In my opinion, Craig’s best performance of his career. But even better is the character of Lisbeth, who is frightening looking and it’s nearly impossible to not just stare at her whenever she’s in a scene. Noomi Rapace’s portrayal of Lisbeth was one of the few things I actually liked about the Swedish one, but I thought Rooney Mara did just as good, in my opinion. She manages to be a completely despondent jerk throughout most of the movie, but I kept pulling for her. I don’t know if it’s because I felt bad for her or what, but she was also very likable in sort of a revenge artist kind of way. Everyone else in the movie… a bunch of interchangeable Swedish people. No one was bad, but no one else really stood out to me.

The film had some quality darkness to it, in both the tone and the colorization of the shots. Fincher is just awesome at the darkness. Quality cinematography and editing. The film is very long, for sure, but the shots breathe for the proper amount of time, and it flows at a reasonably great pace. Trent Reznor’s music wasn’t as outwardly noticeable to me in this as it was in The Social Network. But it certainly didn’t hurt anything in this picture.

There is some brutal violence in this movie and, be warned, some nasty rape stuff. Sooooooo perhaps it’s not the movie you want to take your mom to on Christmas… I felt that all of the violence (or counter-violence) was justified in the context of the movie, though. It didn’t seem mean just for the sake of being mean.

My biggest complaint might be the duration (2 hours 38 minutes). My left butt cheek went numb and my back hurt from the theater seat. That may be because I’m in terrible shape and my body is made of delicious jello, or the theater seats were naturally uncomfortable, I don’t know for sure. But for such a long movie, as I said earlier, the pacing is good. I also admittedly had trouble a few times when the characters were doing research trying to decipher what the hell they were actually doing. Like, I’m not 100% sure what exactly they were looking into a few times, I lost track, but it all gets explained eventually. But there were a few scenes where I just thought “OK. ANOTHER RESEARCH MONTAGE”.

There’s definitely more reasons to go see this then there aren’t, though. However, I didn’t think Dragon Tattoo was as interesting or compelling as Fincher’s other super long crime thriller, Zodiac. Zodiac is brilliance, Dragon Tattoo is just, well… a pretty good movie. Not a masterpiece. Definitely worth watching. Maybe I spoiled it by watching the Swedish version before it. But I do look forward to watching the Fincher version again on Blu-ray in 5 months, and I would recommend it to most, if not all people who like a good mystery/crime/suspense kinda thing. Just don’t expect it to make you feel all warm inside.

8 out of 10

I always like excuses to play perhaps the greatest trailer of the year:

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