Posted in 4 Stars, Film Reviews

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011) – Review

✯✯✯✯

Stylistically, a more appealing take on the same story compared to Niels Arden Oplev’s original interpretation and also a more compelling one at that. It’s worth addressing that I have a rather complicated history with Stieg Larsson’s original trilogy of books, for even with their convoluted storylines I still found The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo an ever-so-fascinating story, something that the original trilogy of films had failed to capture (I greatly dislike The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest with my original distaste of the book coming into play). The idea that David Fincher would go on to direct an adaptation of the same story was something that had me intrigued and what was captured in Fincher’s own take on The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo proved itself to become what I wanted out of the same story compared to the monotony of the original trilogy.

Image result for the girl with the dragon tattoo 2011 rooney mara

With the many recognizable beats of Steig Larsson’s story coming in, our title character, Lisbeth Salander is now played by Rooney Mara. Daniel Craig is now taking on the role of the troubled journalist Mikael Blomkvist. Aiding him is the troubled, antisocial computer hacker Lisbeth Salander, who already leaves behind a mysterious aura just from her own presence. The layout for the story is easy enough: Blomkvist must investigate a disappearance that had taken place forty years prior and with the aid of Lisbeth Salander, much more is uncovered behind what appeared to be any ordinary case of disappearance.

A sign of promise comes about from the opening credits, which draw back to director David Fincher’s experience with directing music videos blasting Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song” covered by Karen O, Trent Reznor, and Atticus Ross. From the opening credits alone, it would already hint at the background which defines The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo all throughout. From the images it gives of Rooney Mara’s portrayal of Lisbeth Salander, it only goes ahead to hint at the mystery that surrounds the character, something to which Fincher has always been able to experiment so perfectly in terms of the styles he employs inside of his body of work. But to draw back to the 2009 film, it also showcases an area where Fincher does something better: he managed to create something more intriguing from flash in comparison. Fincher’s knack for visual storytelling comes back to him, for he communicates the key mystery with gorgeous imagery from start to finish.

Now heading to one of the main highlights of the film, Rooney Mara’s performance as Lisbeth Salander – for what her character leaves behind is a discomforting aura around herself which makes The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo all the more compelling. In turn, this role also plays nicely as a contrast to Rooney Mara’s presence in David Fincher’s previous film, The Social Network, for there’s a raw feeling of fright coming from how she fits into the role as the antisocial Lisbeth Salander. The moment she comes together with Daniel Craig, there’s a great chemistry arising which ultimately drives the film even further.

There’s no denying that Fincher’s take on The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo favours style over substance, but it’s also what helps in adding more to the experience that it leaves behind. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo clearly is a stylistic experiment on Fincher’s end. All of this having come into play, there’s a part of myself that wished something newer could have come around substance-wise for even though I favour what Fincher and screenwriter Steven Zaillian provide in comparison to the monotonous 2009 film, I feel like there could be much newer ground to cover especially around Lisbeth Salander, whose presence already is intriguing enough to keep myself watching all throughout. It keeps more alongside the mystery from the over-editing but it never comes out boring.

It’s rare I ever prefer an Americanized take to the original but it’s the case with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, for even if it doesn’t provide much new to explore, it still works perfectly as an experiment with flash. It’s nice to see David Fincher going back to his roots with directing music videos together with him touching upon old roots: the thriller genre. Most of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo manages to work as a separate work from the 2009 film but there still can be much more ground to cover, especially given the rather abrupt nature of the final moments. That’s not to say it is never compelling, because all throughout, Fincher knows how to use his style in order to provide intrigue for his own substance, because what he left behind is something so unforgiving, demented, and gorgeous all at once.


Watch the trailer right here.

All images via Sony Pictures.


Directed by David Fincher
Screenplay by Steven Zaillian, from the novel by Stieg Larsson
Produced by Scott Rudin, Ole Søndberg, Søren Stærmose, Ceán Chaffin
Starring Daniel Craig, Rooney Mara, Christopher Plummer, Stellan Skarsgård, Robin Wright
Release Year: 2011
Running Time: 158 minutes

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Author:

Jaime Rebanal writes film reviews regularly for Letterboxd and is also the founder of Jaime Rebanal's Film Thoughts, a blog dedicated to discussing the good and bad for the many films he views. He has written consistently for at least a year and continues to allow his content to roam free across the web, and is always open to discuss with fellow film fans.

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