Thursday, December 22, 2011

Escape by Tattooing Your Enemies: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo


One of the taglines for David Fincher’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
an actual Swedish proverb that actor Stellan Skarsgård shared with Fincher – is "What is hidden in snow, comes forth in the thaw." It’s very fitting for this film, as its harsh, often-times nightmarish tone occasionally melts ever so slightly.

The movie follows Daniel Craig as disgraced journalist Mikael Blomkvist (a subplot of the film is the aftermath of a lawsuit he lost) as he investigates the 40-year-old murder of Harriet Vanger, for her uncle, the wealthy Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plummer). Bomkvist eventually teams up with a young computer hacker named Lisbeth Salander (an intense and dark Rooney Mara), the titular girl with the dragon tattoo.

Visually, the film is fantastic. Most of the film looks like one giant blizzard, and a shot of a train chugging through the snow is particularly beautiful. There’s a chase scene at the end of the film – really one of the movie’s only bits of action – and it struck me as gorgeous for some reason.

Fincher is quite the stylish filmmaker. The beginning credit sequence - set to the Trent Reznor/Atticus Ross/Karen O cover of "Immigrant Song" - is like a James Bond opening gone wrong. I especially liked one technique in the film when a flashback scene of a character smoking a cigarette cuts to the same character smoking another cigarette 40 years later. This struck me as a great way to connect the different incarnations of the same character four decades apart, especially considering that the actor in the flashback has no dialogue.

I’m a little ashamed to admit this but, going into the film, I didn’t really know where it was set. I certainly didn’t know the main setting was – as in the original – Hedestad, Sweden. I think I was a little thrown off by Daniel Craig, as he didn’t try for a Swedish accent at all.

There are some negative aspects of the film. It is loooooong. And, while the original Swedish version wraps up quickly after the death of the film’s main antagonist, this remake takes its time.

The main highpoints of the film for me are the relationship between Blomkvist and Salander and the chemistry between Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara. The first act of the film is fine but it really takes off when those two finally get on screen together. I enjoyed Michael Nyqvist and Noomi Rapace as Blomkvist and Salander in the original film, but I like Craig and Mara’s duo even more, or at least, their relationship. It’s definitely warmer and a little more romantic in this film (the melting I mentioned earlier).

One last thing I wanted to bring up is that Stellan Skarsgård, as villainous serial killer Martin Vanger, should probably get an Oscar nomination. Near the end of the film Skarsgård’s Vanger has Blomkvist restrained in his basement/torture chamber, revealing his secrets and generally menacing our hero to death. During that scene Skarsgård goes from chillingly calm (yet very disturbing) to intense with rage in seconds and even though I’d seen the original film and knew everything was going to turn out fine for Blomkvist I couldn’t help but fear for the guy. Oh, and Enya’s "Sail Away" which is played throughout this scene, is forever ruined for me – thanks, Fincher.


  1. Great review once again Robert! Can't wait to see it - I'm still having trouble picturing anyone but Noomi Rapace as Lisbeth, and probably will until I finally see Rooney Mara do her thing!

  2. I absolutely cannot wait to see this as it comes out on Monday and I should be seeing it on Wednesday, so forgive me for not properly reading your review, I don't want to be spoiled.

  3. @ruth thanks, thanks for reading it! I really liked Rapace but Mara puts her own spin on Lisbeth, I hope you like her.

    @rodders, hope you enjoy it, thanks for commenting!

  4. Nice review, my man. We agree on pretty much all fronts. Love the James Bond intro comparison. I too thought the chemistry between the two main characters was better in this version than the original. And, yeah, a Skarsgård Oscar nom would be killer. Never happen though, we'll be lucky to get Rooney.

  5. Thanks for reading, Alex! If Rooney doesn't get nominated I'll be pissed. Just commented on your review, good stuff.

  6. I'm intrigued...great review! A strong connection to character is cornerstone to any movie. Cheers...

  7. Well, I saw the film and got around to reading your review, and terrific job. I definitely preferred this version to the Swedish one, I can just hope that Fincher gets around to making the sequels. Great review Robert, and stay tuned, for i'll be posting reviews for both this film and the Swedish version.

  8. Yaykisspurr - thanks for reading - great characters in the film for sure.

    Rodders - thanks for reading! I'm pretty sure I heard that Fincher is directing the sequels back to back. Ill keep an eye out for your reviews!