Review: 'The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo' 

click to enlarge Rooney Mara stars as the titular character in David Fincher's remake of the Swedish thriller. Submitted photo.
  • Rooney Mara stars as the titular character in David Fincher's remake of the Swedish thriller. Submitted photo.

The opening credits for David Fincher's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (showtimes) feature the kind of creepy-cool imagery and threatening industrial music you might associate with a vintage Nine Inch Nails video. The credits confirm the suspicion - music by NIN main man Trent Reznor (see bottom of page for a rock musician "Fun Fact") and Atticus Ross. Reznor and Fincher first teamed up on Seven, and the boys' feel-bad outlook hasn't diminished over the years.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is the American adaptation of the first book in Stieg Larsson's hugely successful trilogy. All three novels were made into hit Swedish films, but most Americans hate subtitles, so Fincher was invited to do his take on the grim goings-on.

The story: Recently disgraced in court by his enemies, journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig, appropriately subdued), takes a case that will get him out of the spotlight for a while. His task is to investigate the mysterious disappearance of a young girl decades ago from a private island inhabited by the Vangers, a rich, weird family with more simmering resentments than a Republican presidential candidates' dinner party.

Blomkvist hires a highly recommended assistant, Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara, in a star-making performance). She's an incredibly skilled computer hacker with a sullen demeanor and a punk/goth look. Lisbeth was declared a ward of the state years ago, and her warrior facade is just one of many protective measures she took after being raped.

Dark enough for you? There's more: Nazis, serial killing, incest, torture. Merry Christmas, everybody, would you like a dollop of strychnine-laced whipped cream on your mincemeat pie?

The story is dense, the atmosphere is tense (and that rhyme was unplanned). Fincher's approach is methodical and unhurried. I've seen the original film trilogy and knew what was going to happen, but Fincher's vision still held my attention, even with a running time of nearly two hours and 40 minutes. However, there is a big speed bump about 20 minutes before the closing credits. Not enough to ruin the ride, but it definitely gives your shocks a workout.

Here's the non-spoiler deal: After Mikael and Lizbeth team up, their adventures dominate the proceedings to the point that you nearly forget the case they are working on. When their story reaches its climax, it feels like the end of the movie. But wait, we still have to wrap up the whole disappearance-of-the-young-girl-decades-ago thang. Keep that in mind and perhaps you won't find the last 20 minutes as anticlimactic as I did. Or maybe you will, since the revelations aren't as startling as they're supposed to be. If you've watched Law and Order or similar TV procedurals, you've seen similar twists before.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is stylish and gripping. Be ready for some horrifying images, including a deeply-disturbing rape scene that manages to portray the nightmarish experience without feeling exploitative, a feat the original film could not (or did not want to) manage.

Post-Review Fun Fact: Do you know why solo artists (with sidemen) like Trent Reznor adopt rock band names like Nine Inch Nails rather than simply using their own? Because people buy way more t-shirts with cool band names than t-shirts with somebody's name on them. I always reckoned it was about art and image, but it's just business. Who'd have thought?


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What others are saying (14)

East Bay Express The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo David Fincher's Swedish Schnapps. by Kelly Vance 12/21/2011
Colorado Springs Independent Dark ink: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo The feel is radical nouveau Bond flick, complete with Daniel Craig. by Jonathan Kiefer 12/22/2011
The Coast Halifax The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo's ferocious grip David Fincher delivers problematic but compelling thriller by Matt Semansky 12/21/2011
11 more reviews...
Arkansas Times Sex and Salander David Fincher's 'Dragon Tattoo' adaptation titillates. by Cheree Franco 12/21/2011
Tucson Weekly Fast-Paced Investigation At 2 1/2 hours, 'The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo' flies by, thanks to tension and a compelling narrative by James DiGiovanna 04/08/2010
Indy Week The American Girl with the Dragon Tattoo David Fincher's remake of Girl remains as cold as its Swedish winterscape, but the actors frequently appear to be mechanically hitting their marks, often in conspicuous proximity to product placement. by Neil Morris 12/21/2011
Portland Mercury The Land of the Ice and Snow ... and sex, and violence, and dragon tattoos. by Erik Henriksen 12/22/2011
Creative Loafing Atlanta Girl With the Dragon Tattoo has its revenge David Fincher's sleek thriller transcends the Swedish original by Curt Holman 12/19/2011
Charleston City Paper Girl with the Dragon Tattoo remake has same badass heroine as original Nothing in David Fincher's The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo quite lives up to the menacing, ambiguous, death-metal rapturous credit sequence that opens the director's adaptation of the best-selling Stieg Larsson novel of the same name. by Felicia Feaster 12/21/2011
Colorado Springs Independent Opening this week Three flicks we've reviewed this week, plus The Darkest Hour. 12/22/2011
Charleston City Paper 2011 was the year of a different heroine The cinema of 2011 offered a long overdue news flash. While our brains have been programmed from years of Kate Hudson and Katherine Heigl vehicles to think that all women wanted was a husband and a hot pair of Manolo Blahniks, this year's movies germinated the notion that things aren't quite that simple. Or simple-minded. by Felicia Feaster 12/28/2011
Tucson Weekly Pointless Project The absence of Noomi Rapace is painfully felt in the American remake of 'Dragon Tattoo' by Bob Grimm 12/29/2011
Colorado Springs Independent Opening this week The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Chipmunks, more. 12/15/2011

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