The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo - Review

When i first heard about Fincher remaking the Swedish Thriller "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo" it was kind of weird news for me. On the one hand, i am always interested in what the creator of "Seven", "Fight Club" and "The Social Network" will bring us next. On the other hand, i was asking myself whether a remake of Stieg Larsson's already adapted novel is all that necessary.
However, my curiosity overweighed my doubts and simultaneously raised my expectations. Fincher is by far one of the most stylish and distinctive directors out there nowadays and what movie could be a better vehicle to deliver "fincher-ish" style than an adaptation of a "Millenium Trilogy" novel?

The plot: Journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) is aided in his search for a woman who has been missing for forty years by Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara), a young computer hacker. Together they manage to come closer in revealing the serial killer's identity. Little do they know, they put themselves into danger as well...

Let me get one thing out of the way first: Neither did i read any of Larsson's novels, nor did i watch the original adaptation of "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" by Niels Arden Oplev. Every comparison to the source material or original adaptation that i make, will be an information according to a friend of mine who read the novel.

Fincher's remake starts off with an incredible intro, worthy of a Bond-movie. It's basically an incredibly stlyish musicvideo showing a female and a male liquid metal oily figure having some weird S&M sex, while strange cables and cords keep strangling them and penetrating their bodies. This sure might sound silly on paper. But let me tell you: it's without a doubt one of the cooles intros i've seen for a long time. Additionally it's put to an electro cover of Led Zeppelin's "Immigrant Song" by Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross and Karen O. And while the rest of the movie turns out to be a lot more calm than this arousing intro, it still kind of fits the style and character of the movie. Great!

Now let's get to the story.
Basically Fincher does everything right. "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo" is a great serial killer thriller you would expect from a director like Fincher. It has many atmospheric similarities to his previous movie "Zodiac", regarding the moody city feel underlined by snowy and foggy weather.
Mostly the story of catching the serial killer and finding the lost woman is pretty straightforward. Basically the main storyline is shown through Blomkvists point of view. Lisbeth Salander only gets "really" involved into the main storyline at about halfway through the movie. This brings me to my first minor complaint about the storytelling: Salander's sidestory up to her first meeting with Blomkvist mainly consists out of showing her everyday life and what tortures she has to put herself through to live. We get to see several pretty disgusting but shockingly well acted rape scenes. But in the end, those don't really seem to conclude to much but instead are there for the shock value. I get the point that those parts are essential for getting the character and why Salander is who she is, but for the grand feels a bit pointless.
As i said, the main detective story (basically following Blomkvist) is pretty straightforward and interestingly told. However, there are several parts in which the viewer has to pay a good amount of attention to keep track of the events. Often there are whole scenes that just center around Blomkvist or Salander staring at pictures because they found a clue or some hint. It's only realistic that they wouldn't just talk to themselves about what they just found out. Also there is a good "Swedish-name-throwing-around" going on. It's no "Inception"-difficulty, but having a friend with you who read the novel can be very useful when getting to some tricky parts. But don't be scared. With a good amount of attention you should encounter no problems.

Another fact that i am not that quite sure what to think of, is the fact that the movie's storyline got tweaked a whole lot to make the it feel "complete" and not too long. Of course it's almost impossible to include EVERYTHING from an adapted novel into a film, it's almost always impossible. But at some points (mostly the ones you tend to lose track a bit), they turn out to have left some crucial information out that would have explained a character's behaviour or knowledge about something specific. But notably essential parts of the ending in Fincher's version got changed a whole lot to shorten the runtime (WHICH IS STILL AT ABOUT 2,5 Hours!!!).
All in all, those changes didn't hurt the movie for me. It's still a very good serial killer flick although it doesn't reinvent the franchise or make you go "OMG" by the end. But most probably fans of the novel won't be that happy about it.

With that said, the movie doesn't really end like most serial killer movies do with the killer's reveal, but with some kind of epilogue that tries to tie every loose end that there is. And while i am not quite sure whether or not this "epilogue" is a good or bad decision (the epilogue alone is about 30 min long), it definitely takes a whole lot of the drama and intensity out of the final "killer-reveal-conclusion", making the reveal feel kind of unspectacular.

The acting in Fincher's version ranges from great to amazing. Like many other critics already said, this is by far Rooney Mara's best performance to date. Especially in the convincingly well played rape scenes and through her facial expressions, she shows her very best in acting. The locked-in rage inside her is just as unsettling as Trent Reznor's brilliant score. While Lisbeth Salander is the main iconic figure in the "Millenium Trilogy", Rooney Mara successfully managed to depict her probably in the worthiest way possible.
Daniel Craig plays Mikael Blomkvist, our second main character and the "real" detective(/journalist) of the story. It may feel weird for some (including me), but this is one of Craig's "weakest" roles. I am not talking about his acting but about Blomkvist's persona. Blomkvist is not an action hero a la Bond. He more or less can be considered a total wimp. He mostly tries to stay out of trouble but at the same time wants to keep track of the serial killer. Hell! At several times you practically see how Rooney Mara is "bad-assing" him out of the scene!
Sure that's just the character Craig is playing, but it just feels a bit odd after several of his recent action roles.
But to be fair, Craig does a predictably great job with his performance here.
Other supporting characters are of course by far not as present as the two leads but do their job well. Of course they get radically "out-acted" by Craig's and especially Mara's performance.

And before i forget: Trent Reznor again shows that he is not only capable of writing good songs but also kick-ass scores. Fincher movies and Reznor's scores are made for one another. And i don't care that there is a dude with a Nine-Inch-Nails-Shirt walking around in this flick...Reznor is the man!

Overall, "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo" might not be a perfect movie, but it's a pretty good one. The serial killer story is far away from milestones like "Seven" or "Silence of the Lambs" but Fincher manages to effectively tell an engaging story without confusing TOO much (considering all the different supporting characters) and successfully mixes in his unique "Fincher-ish" slightly melancholic style. Additionally, very well written dialogue and excellent performances from the two lead protagonists, make this remake easily the finest thriller of 2011.
Every Fincher fan and lovers of some good thriller stories have to see "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo".

Final Verdict: 7 out of 10


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