The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

Ho. Ly. Shit.

That. Was. Sick.

As everyone probably knows by now, “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” is a remake of 2009 swedish film directed by Niels Arden Oplev and starring Noomi Rapace and Michael Nyqvist. Whether Fincher went back to the source material (both films stem from a trilogy of novels by Stieg Larsson) or remade the swedish film directly, I’m not sure… regardless, the source material has been filmed before, and thus comparisons will inevitably be made.

Except by me, here.

As a big fan of Fincher’s previous films (“Se7en”, “Fight Club”, “The Social Network”, and the hugely underrated “Zodiac”), I had avoided all things “Girl” until this movie. I wanted my first introduction to be his, and I’m so glad I did that right now. So glad. As soon as the movie ended, the people in the theatre began comparing this one to the original “This was missing,” or “That was different”, and I was so blissfully free of any of it. We can debate the merits or lack thereof of remaking foreign films later… I’m certain I will eventually. I’ve promised roughly 643 people that I will watch the original. For now, I was supremely satisfied to be able to look at this movie as a movie in and of itself.

Because. Wuh-huh-how…. (pronounced “Wow” with three syllables)

Let’s say right up front, if you’re not familiar with this film at all, this is a dark and disturbing movie. There are some sick moments, and I mean that both in a complimentary way and in a “taken aback” way. This movie doesn’t shy away from some fairly graphic exchanges of hostilities between human beings, and they’re occasionally delivered within a sexual context. This is not a movie for children. This is not a movie for the faint of heart. This is not a movie for people with easily offended sensibilities.

What it is is a movie for people who appreciate cold-blooded, bad ass movies. Awesomeness that burns on the way down like a 100 proof shot of booze. Movies that kick you in the balls a little before they’re done with you. Fincher has crafted a dark masterpiece here. everything is gorgeous… cold, stark, bleak… but beautiful. There’s a feeling of doom running throughout. A foreboding. He’s somehow managed to make the dread visceral. Palpable. It courses through the movie like blood. Cold blood.

“The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” is the story of a journalist – Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) who is hired to assist a family with a cold case. 40 years ago one of their members, a teenaged girl, was killed. Now the patriarch of the family wants to know what happened. Even though he realizes that that probably means exposing a dark secret within his own family. The plot is excellent. Under the layers of darkness (which will certainly be the most prominent aspect of the film) lies a first-rate detective story.

Assisting Blomkvist is the titular “Girl With the Dragon Tattoo”, Lisbeth Salander. Salander is a disturbed young woman. A computer genius with a photographic memory. Yet she’s socially maladjusted, a ward of the state, certifiably insane. You do not want to %$&# with her. But if she’s on your side? You would quickly come to consider her the “Ace in the Hole”.

This is her show… she’s an incredible character. Strange, sad, dangerous, unpredictable, unforgettable. As I prefaced this review with, I’m certain that for many people, comparisons between Mara and Rapace will be inescapable. I don’t care if somehow this portrayal was derivative (and at this point I have no idea), she still had to pull it off. And wow, holy lord, that was incredible. Mara is otherworldly here. As in -there are times when one might actually wonder if she’s from Earth. Brilliant. She never once makes you question her. She enables the audience to completely immerse themselves in the magic of watching this quasi-savant with social issues do her thing. I can’t clap loudly enough. Craig, too, was excellent. Haggard and weary, dogged… but the headlines are most assuredly Mara’s.

“Girl” is an intoxicating film. Something from the depressant category – strong and smooth. There are times when you will squirm, or feel a little dirty… your comfort is not Fincher’s concern. Your entertainment is. And here he, he certainly does his thing. This is a movie which easily fits in amongst his best, I’m just wondering if I should put it at the top of his filmography, were I to rank them. It has a long runtime. Epic. 2hrs 40 mins or so. But I never felt it dragged even for a moment. I wanted more. I was spellbound.

And it most assuredly was black magic. The dark arts.

A++

48 thoughts on “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

  1. I am SO looking forward to this. Nice write-up. I will hold my ‘Re-makes rant’ for another time. Suffice to say that if it weren’t for Fincher I probably would be looking forward to this with fear rather than anticipation.

    Will probably not be able to see it until after the holidays, so I’ll report back my impressions then.

    • Looking forward to that.

      I realize that fans of the original are going to be a little gunshy about having it redone, or whatever… but I have a hard time imagining how this could diappoint anyone.

      The only thing I could see would be maybe if someone went in not really knowing what to expect and wound up being offended. That’s a possibility. LOL. But I was blown away.

      • really good movie. Better than the Swedish version? I dont think so, but easily on par. I think you were wise to avoid spoilers, know what was coming was not advantageous to enjoyment of this. Production wise, Fincher turned in a brilliant product, although that weird opening title sequence had me scratching my head. Did he think because Daniel Craig was in it, he need a Bond-esque opening?

        Anyway, top notch entertainment, well worth the seeing, but I highly recommend the original as well. I might watch it again tonight, just as a refresher.

      • Some additional thoughts:

        Is this the “Silence of the Lambs” of this decade? Maybe.

        Lisbeth’s bike int he remake is FAR superior to her bike in the Swedish version, but She wasn’t as clearly a sociopath in the re-make as she was in the book/original. In the original she never had to say the line “because I’m crazy, right?”… you got it without that. I did like the bit at the end where she asked permission… You understood then that she needs an external moral compass.

        Both Apple and Google came out looking well, didn’t they? Cant call ‘em on product placement as both are actually from the book. lol

      • Prometheus does look promising. It has me hoping as opposed to nervously awaiting. But we’ll still see…

        LOL @ the Bond opening graphic comment. Did have kind of a Dark Bond title sequence feel to it.

        I swear, I’ll hit the Swedish one as soon as the MAJOR Awards are over. LOL. So difficult not to have seen it right now. Just saying, not anything on you, bro.

        On the “Silence” question? I dont know. Good parallel. I’ll tell you this, it just might be. I’m already working Lisbeth into my list of top female characters. She’s top five now easy.

        And as far as anything “heavy handed”? Man, I just saw WAR HORSE. Lol. Nothing seemed heavy handed about this movie. Compared to that… ooouuufff! :D

  2. ++ Huh? Does this mean there’s a +++ out there? I’m out the door to see this today. Hup, gonna shake the the fleas off my wallet and pay for a flik. The european film version is usually the darker of the two (“the Vanishing” comes to mind). I’ll let you know.

  3. I was already looking forward to seeing this, but now I can’t wait! Your write up is exceptionally enticing. Your description sounds like this movie got everything right, storyline, cinematography, actors, mood, pace, action, intrigue, and depravity. It all sounds wonderful, especially the depravity! jk I have to ask, you mention a first-rate detective story, is it an intellectual brain teaser kind of story or one that unfolds as the movie progresses. In other words would I need to see it twice to pick up hints and clues that I may have missed? Not that it would make a difference to me, just curious what type of detective story?

    Sounds great, nice write-up, next time put a little more feeling into it!

    • Uhm, yeah, thats a good question. I dont know if its a solve it yourself like Hercule Poirot type deal as much as it’s a getting to watch them as they figure it out. That doesn’t make it not good. I love how they “cracked it”

      And you know me, dude. I’m all about putting the “hype” in hyperbole. :D

      It was worth it though. No doubt. This one should (if there’s any justice out there) be a MAJOR player come awards season.

  4. Not sure when I’m going to catch this in theaters, if I do so at all. It’s on my list of things to see but I have no one to see it with and almost no time to see it with everything I have to do before the year’s out. (In the blogosphere and in real life, mind.)

    Enthusiastic as hell. What I’m reading of critical response tends to fall either in the middle– it looks great and is a technically amazing movie that’s emotionally distant and lacking, mostly because its source material is hollow– or on the Denby side of positivity. I’m curious to see where I’ll end up, but in the meantime thumbs up on the review bud.

    • Thanks man. :D

      Uh, as for the theatre… I used to have a thing (pre-blog) where if a movie wouldnt lose a lot in the translation to the home screen, I would wait. Probably wouldn’t have been the case here, I’d have been too amped up, but, I think this movie is the stories and the characters and all of that, so the wait wouldnt kill it for you.

      But man. Wow. That was a seriously crazy movie man. Pull no punches stuff. Crazy good. Cant wait for the sequel.

      Regardless, whenever you see it, I’m sure you’ll write it up. We’ll revisist then!

  5. Awesome review man! (And I mean that not in the sense that it’s awesome because it completely validates my opinion of the film, but is instead well articulated and interesting to read :P)

    But yea, holy crap! This is a movie that Ive been looking forward to seeing for two years, ever since its existence was announced. I’m a big fan of Larsson’s novels, kind of appreciate the Swedish films (the first is particularly good, the second and third less so), and a huge Fincher fan-boy, so it seemed like a film made for me. And it totally is!

    (Minor spoilers below, for those who haven’t seen the film / read the books)

    A lot of the criticism I’ve seen lobbied at the film tends to be towards the source material, and more specifically its lack of having anything to really say (which is true, the novels, while epic, are somewhat devoid of any deeper thematic message). But Finchers film changes that. I’m not sure if you took this away from the movie, but it almost seemed as though Fincher was trying to make his audience — the men specifically — feel stupid for being so perversely interested in sex.

    The conceit of Larssons novels, if there is any at all, is that for the most part, men are kind of idiotic. He dealt with the guilt of witnessing a gang-rape at 15, and not being able to do anything about it for his whole life, and writing these novels was a small way to cope with that. While he succeeded in writing an interesting and epic trilogy of books, in terms of pushing whatever deeper message he was hoping to push he ultimately failed.

    The first time we see Rooney Mara naked, it’s shocking. She’s a somewhat big-name actress (at least after this film she will be), and it kind of catches you off-guard. But then as the film progresses, and we continue to see her naked / thrust into sexual situations she either has no control of (the rape), or has complete control of (her first time with Blomkvist), seeing her naked, and having sex begins to become less effecting. This is the first film I’ve ever seen (perhaps maybe Meloncholia) where the nude scenes felt not as though the director was trying to hit some sort of titilation-quota, but just build the idea that “hey, women have boobies, see here’s some boobies, you’ve seen them before, why are you so obsessed with them?”.

    The entire motive of the film’s villains is sexual. Michael Blomkvist is, for the most part, a sexual deviant. He breaks up his marriage to sleep with his editor, sleeps with Lisbeth after only minor protestation, and then goes back to the editor once he’s had his fun. Sex to the men in this film is meaningless, and I think that rings true for most men in real life — so Fincher points out how completely absurd it is to actively pursue something we ultimately only care about in the most primal way possible. For Lisbeth, Larsson, and now Fincher, sex and sexuality have meaning. Lisbeth only offers herself to Blomkvist once she’s sure she can trust him, and their connection serves as catharsis for her sexual encounter we see earlier in the film. But then, like the rest of the men in her life, he betrays her.

    I think this is a tangent at this point, and I’m not even 100% sure what I’m trying to say other than that I really love this movie. I think it’s perfect in almost every regard, beautifully shot, masterfully acted, and brilliantly scripted.

    • Yeah, I’ll say this. I dont think that all entertainment needs to speak to deeper themes, so there’s a number of times when I hear criticisms along those lines that I get dismissive, you know? Not everything needs to be Shakespeare. You can just tell an exciting, well told story that entertains, and have that be that. And you can still score top marks with me.

      There’s themes to be mined here though, for sure, and there’s no doubt there has to be some correlation between the sex/violence/power elements in it. I would need some more time to think, and a subsequent reviewing or two before I put any conjecture out there.

      LOL, maybe when I do my “Movies That Everyone Should See” on it next week. Just kidding. But not really.

      Definitely something about sex and power though. I worry that future spoilers amy lie ahead though, so for anyone reading this keep the context to this flick only please.

      But yeah, damn you, now I’m thinking… Nice comment man.

      • I’ll refrain from diving deeper into the future films, because that would be lame, but Lisbeth does very much become the focus of the trilogy, thus I would consider her to be the “protagonist”. One of the things I’ve always disliked about the original Swedish film is the fact that while Noomi Rapace’s Lisbeth is certainly a compelling character, it never transcends that. She’s 100% stoic badass and we never really get a sense of any deeper emotions (this rings true even in the books).

        [Spoilers for the film] This is exemplified to the greatest extent in the final scene of both films. Noomi’s Lisbeth shrugs off getting betrayed by Blomkvist. Their relationship is poorly developed to begin with, and we’re never given the sense that either of them actually care for each other beyond mere physical attraction, so it’s not entirely surprising when the betrayal happens, and Lisbeth meets it with indifference.

        Fincher / Mara’s version of Lisbeth is just as shut off and emotionally devoid as Rapace’s, but in the end she’s a human being, and even the most angry and haunted among us can’t avoid our emotions, especially when they’re as strong as love. You can feel betrayal at the end of the film. It’s a tragedy when she realizes that one of the only people she’s ever trusted / cared for tosses her aside, and we have to watch her receed back into her former, guarded and closed off self.

        That’s where I think Fincher’s version differentiates (for the better) from its Swedish counterpart. Fincher’s characters feel like human beings, even the most inhuman among them have motives, needs, and desires. Sadly, that really isn’t present in the books or swedish series of films. I never onced imagined myself liking this trilogy more than I already did, but leave it to Fincher to take what was an epic, yet pulppy and ultimately meaningless story and turn it into high art.

      • NICE! I mean, obviously I love the flick, and I’m alreadfy grappling in my head whether this is my favorite Fincher or not.

        Of course, right now I have no other exposure to the other interpretations, so I’ll have to give them a shot just to be able to speak to the subject. I’m sure you’re seeing the comparisons all over, too. Theyre pretty much inescapble. LOL

  6. A++? Wow ;)

    Great review! I honestly don’t even know if I want to see this film, but maybe if the opportunity comes up I’ll go see it. It seems a little too “sick” for me :D

  7. Hey Fog’s. Right in the nick of time. My friend and I saw the banner for it on the bus today and over here in the UK it comes out on the 26th and we both said we want to see it.
    From what you have written it sounds right up my street. But….I am having the usual ‘Book vs Film’ problem but I just can’t give up on not watching the film coz what you wrote about it sounds just too damn brilliant to miss.

    I had NO idea that a previous version ever existed. Yeh the books by Larsson but not that it was ‘based’ on something already done.

    I am too intrigued now and when my friend wakes up I will let them know about this review and see if we can book the tickets tomorrow. Your write up is really good Fog’s-it has sealed it for me.

    Immie :-)

    • LOL. Well, good.

      This is some high quality stuff. Obviously if you’re a fan of the source material then you probably wouldnt have an issue with the “disturbing” subject matter… you already know it can get a little nasty.

      That aside, this flick was great. High quality, great acting, what a great story and awesome characters. I was amazed by it…. it ran almost 3 hours, but if they had queued up a sequel, I’d have sat right through it right then. Very very good stuff.

  8. Wow wild raves it is! Now you can go and check out the original. I’m not sure whether I’m going to see this in theater or wait for the DVD, given that I saw the Swedish version just over a year ago. But certainly, your enthusiasm for this movie come through as contagious from your review.

    • “Wow wild raves it is!” Cmon, man, you’ve been here before. Did you expect “Level headed and objective”? :D

      I will go back to revisit the original, most likely in short order, since it’s still on Netflix and it’s such a “hot button issue” right now…

  9. Having read all 3 novels and having seen the foreign versions, I was still totally wowed by the American version of “The Girl…” It seemed to expand on the the foreign version, thus making everything more profound. Can’t wait to see “The Girl Who Kicked…” done by Fincher??

    • Yeah, he’s attached. As long as the picture does well finacially, the sequels will be shot back to back.

      I’d estimate they’d hit theatres in 2013 and 2014…

      I’m sure the stars are also attached, but I couldnt see anything in my brief attempt at a fact check here. I cant wait to see them either! :D

  10. I laughed hearing people complain about what was missing in the film from the book, or how this was changed or that was changed! LOL. I am glad you could see the film and appreciate it for what it was.

    Again, you tell us in a great and expressive way just how fantastic this film is. I will be interested in your thoughts on the original, but be warned: having seen the remake, you may find yourself a little bit distracted while watching the slower paced original. (the same thing happened to me after watching Let Me In and then going to watch Let The Right One In). I like the remake better! Perhaps I will also when it comes to TGWTDT!

    • I hope you do man. I’ve been shocked at the critical response No Golden Globe nom? 80% on Rotten Tomatoes? I UNDERSTAND why its underperforming at the Box office… but the critical community is not taking to it in a way that I would have expected when I saw it.

  11. After reading all three books, and feeling sad that the author had passed away so there wouldn’t be anymore…I really want to see this movie. I hope I can handle it. I normally don’t go for movies as graphic as this one must be….but I loved the books so much I want to force myself! The stories in the second two are much better than the first one – and much more action packed – so the sequels will most likely only be better! I doubt I will bother with the foreign versions. I debated it, but then figured the American version would be better if for no other reason than that fact that I don’t have to read subtitles…

    Thanks for another awesome review!!!

    • Thanks Lyn, you’re welcome! :D

      You know? Yeah, this film certainly does have its share of graphic violence and sexually related violence, etc.

      I imagine it was in the books. So… you know what you’ll be getting into. But I do have to say, if you can work your way past it, there’s a seriously intense, gripping movie here. I thought it was excellent. I’m looking forward to the sequels myself, I hope they wind up getting made (“Girl” didnt exactly hit a homerun at the box office… but I wonder what they expected with such a “tough” movie)

  12. Wow, it’s interesting how people can have such different reactions to the same film. Like you this was my first time with the series, and I didn’t mind the darkness, but also didn’t really feel like I connected with either the characters or the mystery aspect. Glad you liked it though!

    • Yep. Sure is. Get to see a lot of that (varying opinions) in this “business” dont you?

      I loved it. I connected with both (the mystery and the characters). Not Blomkvist so much, but definitely Salander.

      I was over to your blog on the “Killer of Fanboys” post, so I saw where you stood on it.

  13. Great review! As someone who’s read the books and watched the Swedish movies, I’ve been interested to see what people completely new to the whole series think of Fincher’s take on things.

    Personally, I never found myself thinking “oh, he missed this” or “oh, he should have done that like the Swedish film did.” I think that’s mostly a testament to how deeply this version draws you in. It’s so atmospheric and so heavy, that you’re completely focused on every little nuance that Fincher throws in. I couldn’t have asked for a better adaptation.

    • We people who are completely new to the series seem to be few and far between! Frankly, it was a challenge (being the movie freak I am) keeping myself in the dark!

      It was worth it though… after things settle down here next week, I’m going to see the first Swedish one. Not the second or third though, I just saw someone on twitter today saying Sony is moving ahead with the series in spite of the poor box office take so far.

      I’m glad you were able to enjoy it for what it was… I learned my lesson from “The Fellowship of the Rings”. I finished retracing that book like the day before I saw the movie… Never doing that again!

      Thanks for posting up Shelby, appreciate hearing your thoughts!

  14. “I’m alreadfy grappling in my head whether this is my favorite Fincher or not.”

    Wu-uh-uh-oh-ow! 5 syllables! Anyway, that’s some high praise in my book right there. I loved this adaptation (I won’t go any further than that), but still think that’s almost a blasphemic (that’s not a word? Fuck you, vocabulary!) statement to make. Glad you enjoyed it so much, though.

    LOL at the “did you expect level-headedness” comment as well.

    • Ok, update: 10 days later. It’s not. Fight club has more to say, I think, says it better, and is WAY more fun.

      I think that’s part of the issue I might see here… A lack of rewatchability. Not that it’s not good enough to watch multiple times. But, you could put Fight Club on at any time of day and I’m in.

      It does speak to how much I was blown away by it that I would put it into consideration as his best.

      And yeah, I’m not exactly an “objective journalist” but that’s ok, there’s enough of those out there.

      I’m sure you figured that out right away. :D

  15. I finally saw “Girl” last night. Very impressed, a 3 syllable W-O-W for sure! Never read the books, didn’t see the Swedish version, heck I didn’t even see the trailer….I actually decided to go to this movie after your review…..I was intrigued to say the least. (up to that point, I thought it was a martial arts film….hahaha)
    I was warned on many levels by many people about not being able to handle it, it being too dark and dirty, etc. (They were probably thinking they were somehow protecting me the “holy -roller purist” they think I am, given my job.)
    So, what did I think? EXCELLENT MOVIE!
    Rooney Mara’s acting was stellar! You never questioned Lisbeth’s authenticity. I would think with such an unconventionally dark and multi-layered character, over-acting would be tempting and easy to slip into, yet she never did. She kept her character distant, icy, and dark…even when she “warmed up” she was still nebulous. . I also loved that Lisbeth’s character wasn’t “over-dialogued”. Here character stayed true to her core being the entire way through. I have less to say about Daniel Craig, although his was another great performance! I like that he wasn’t over-glamorized. They worked great together.
    I love the whole murder mystery that unraveled as we watched. I like the different story lines and how they eventually connected. Just a very smart movie!!
    I have heard many people who have seen “Girl” say that they could have done without the graphic nature of some of the scenes and the other gratuitous sex scenes. I can see (like you said) how someone can be offended….but I don’t really think any of the scenes were unnecessary. The violent scenes, yes, they were horrific, but even if it was not shown, and only alluded to…..it would have been no less horrific. I guess by that point …..I had moved beyond just being a person in a theater audience….and I was already invested in the lives of the characters. There is no proper way to word this, but I think it was done as “tasteful” as that type of scene could have been done. People “saw” more, because the directing and the acting was just that good!
    On the note of gratuitous sex in the movie, I don’t think of the scenes were unnecessary. When a movie can continue to develop without a particular scene and a free boobie shot is put in only to excite and arouse the audience without actually adding quality to the scene, then it is gratuitous. I can say with great conviction, that in no way should any of the scenes in this movies have registered on anyone’s sexual radar…not even the few consensual ones. Even those, which were seemingly meaningless, showed you exactly how numb she had become and gave you a glimpse into her inner psyche. They weren’t just scenes; they were glimpses into how she understood life to be. That was her reality. And let’s face it; “Take My Breathe Away” doesn’t actually play in the background when people are in bed.
    It was a very long movie, but I never felt that it dragged either. If I had to register a complaint…..I think the ending felt a little rushed….I had a lot of “Oh yeah”, “Now I see”, and “Didn’t see that coming” moments. But before I got a handle on one, it was on to the next one. I would have stayed longer.
    I could go on and on…..but, all in all, it was a well-deserved A++

    • Personally? I warn everyone on that movie, not because of the sex, but because of the sexual assaults. They’re both very graphic. I think there will be a lit of people who can’t get past that sort of thing, so any recommendation (of mine) comes with a warning label.

      I’m glad you enjoyed. I’m glad I could steer you to a good movie. That’s one of the many great things I’m loving about doing this. Steering someone towards a good movie!

      Sounds like you’re raising your own movie perception too, I love seeing that! :D The experience of movie going certainly gets better when you mull ‘em over a little, no?

      You’re right. The sex is integral here. It’s really the theme of the movie.

      More coming, hit send by accident

      • I usually need a review or two to really nail down what I think is “Trying to be said”… I don’t like to dedicate too much of my initial viewings to being analytical.

        But obviously there’s sexual empowerment issues afoot. So… You’re not really getting that across WITHOUT sex scenes, lol.

        Both the performances were great. Excellent. Now you know why I had to give Mara my MAJOR Award! :D

        Anyways Deb, glad you enjoyed it, I did too. I reaaaaally came super close to giving it Best Movie. I just love “The Descendants” that (tiny space between fingers gesture) much more.

  16. I actually want to see it again down the road…..after I digest this viewing a bit. I need sort out some of the discoveries at the end. It went too fast. I definitely got the general idea, but I actually missed a few of the key relationships/who’s who….and the specific connections.

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