The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Posted December 29, 2011 by in


Total Score

2/ 5

Quick Stats

Genre: mystery
Director: David Fincher
MPAA Rating: R
Actors: Daniel Craig, Rooney Mara, Christopher Plummer
Length: 158 minutes
Release Date: 12/20/2011
Studio: Columbia Pictures, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Scott Rudin Productions, Yellow Bird Films, Film Rites, Ground Control
What We Thought

Fincher is a talented actor’s director, but the film buckles under its own bloated weight before the credits roll.

by Daniel Hodgson
Full Article
After falsely being found guilty in a civil libel suit, Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) finds himself broke, disgraced, and out of a job.  Hope comes from a wealthy industrialist, Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plummer), who hires him to track down the killer of his favorite niece Henrietta, in exchange for a small fortune—plus dirt on the financier who ruined Mikael’s name.  But 40 years have passed since the murder, and the trail is cold.  Mikael hires deeply troubled but brilliant punk computer hacker Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mira) to assist him in the case.  They soon learn that  Henrietta may not be the only victim of a brutal killer, who’s still at large.
     Director David Fincher can be an effective storyteller, and I’m a fan of his Seven and Fight Club, but as a detective thriller, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo has several story problems.  The chief problem is that the film peaks way too early with the graphic assault of Lisbeth by her guardian Bjurman (Yorick van Wageningen). Several scenes build up to the attack itself.  Bjurman dominates her in conversation in their first meeting, and is obsessed with controlling her life—foreshadowing violence to come.  In the next encounter, he uses his position to violate her private life in an interview,  and to coerce her into gratifying him.  Once he has her at last in a vulnerable position, he’s unhurried and deliberate, and the scene runs deep with the dread of inevitable and unspeakable violence.  What comes after is even more shocking, and frankly, justice.
     That sounds like a complete film in and of itself, but The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo isn’t even halfway over.  Lisbeth’s own story is the most intense arc of the three plot threads of the film.  She’s an interesting character who acts and reacts to events in the present.  What follows is the noble but banal Mikael investigating events that happened in the past to secondary characters that are described to us, but we barely see.  Acting as a paid investigator, he’s affected by the events, but not personally or directly.  This hurts the overall pacing of the film.  The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo clocks in at almost three hours in length, and simply sputters out before the credits roll.  As Fincher drags out the last act tying up loose ends when the main plot thread is long since done and over with, I just sat there wondering when it was going to end.
     As with The Social Network, what Fincher lacks as a storyteller, he makes up for as an actor’s director.  Rooney Mira delivers a layered, nuanced performance as Lisbeth.  She’s a mass of contradictions.  Her icy remoteness betrays a fear of physical and emotional intimacy, yet she’s fearless in the face of men she should be terrified of.  The irony is that in a story about murderers and sexual predators, she’s the most terrifying character of them all—by far.  And yet there’s a few, brief moments when she experiences joy with another human being precisely because she is vulnerable, even despite herself.
     Compared with the Swedish version, the remake gets off the ground faster, but the pacing is both a blessing and a curse.  The Swedish version opened sluggishly by comparison, but I had a better idea of who was doing what and why by the end.  Fincher’s version rushes through the investigation, throwing names and clues at the screen faster than I could keep up with, and the result is exhausting. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo doesn’t really ask the audience to sift through suspects, but rather wants us to be amazed at the detective work of Mikael and Lisbeth, which isn’t nearly as much fun.  The script throws in black comedy at the climax that diffuses tension it desperately needs, and ultimately the film buckles under its own bloated weight.

About the Author

Daniel Hodgson

Daniel has a degree in film from the University of Texas at Austin, and writes about himself in the third-person, because that's the fashion.


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