Movie Review: The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

Unlike many, I went to see David Fincher’s The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo with no first hand knowledge of the plot, books or the Swedish trilogy of films. And while I am not a fan of Fincher, I respect his style and ability as a filmmaker. However, even as a non-fan, I was shocked to find a film that while technically brilliant, was quite bland and boring from a storytelling perspective.

There is a long history of great filmmakers turning bland, derivative stories into masterpieces of cinema. Take Kubrick, Scorsese and Demme for example; however Fincher does not succeed where those filmmakers did. Fincher is able to flex his technical muscles as a filmmaker with this film, but unfortunately, the plot is so utterly contrived and badly paced, that it became a chore to sit through the screening.

Based on the hit Millennium series by the late Stieg Larsson, Fincher’s take feels all too attached to the original material that holds the film down like an anchor. While at times it feels like a brave genre exercise, without the freedom of complete control, the story and pace keep it from being anything more than a standard serial killer film. It may pretend to be of more importance, but the obvious reveal, and repetitive, confusing investigation show its true colours as just another procedural.

Much of the buzz around this film was concentrated on how the relatively unknown Rooney Mara would do in the now infamous role of Lisbeth Salander. Her performance as a disturbed, private investigator is not only brave, but the best thing about the film. The entire cast does the best they can with subpar material, but Mara is the only one who is able to truly shine in her performance. She has shown herself as a true talent to watch, and if anything, this film has at least given us this actress and her great performance.

The power of her performance actually becomes an issue at points, as the film slows to a crawl whenever she is not on screen. It is a real shame, as I was expecting at least to be entertained, but instead I felt frustration more than anything else. When the reveal finally comes, instead of shock, it was disappointment with an obvious and boring twist. And maybe even worse, is the fact the film does not end there, but has an almost twenty minute epilogue that drags the film down even further.

As disappointing as it was, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is surely not an embarrassment for Fincher as he has already signed on for two more films. It is a shame, however that a filmmaker of this caliber has decided to lower himself to unworthy material instead of trying for something truly great. The incredible cinematography and camera work can only do so much, and with The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo his strengths just are not strong enough to keep this film above water.

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4 Responses to Movie Review: The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

  1. khambher2525 says:

    Your verbose, over-analyzed critique of this film is ridiculous. I’v read all the books and have seen the muddled, poorly-produced Swedish versions and you couldn’t be more wrong.I’m tired of the whole idea that anything Hollywood takes a turn at is “corrupting” some sacred European bastion of cultural property. The fact that an American remake / re-adaptation is usually done to get the film to a broader audience and possibly make money is completely irrelevant, if true. The quality of the film is everything. The fact is, Fincher’s version is better-crafted, better edited, better casted, more stylized, more “polished”, and hones much better to the original source material – the book. The Swedish version gave us a Halloween costumed bull-dyke in garish Goth apparel and a spiked dog collar that was tacky and “over the top”. The freakish-looking character practically screamed “Look at me !!” The whole idea behind Salander’s appearance is that she wants to be left alone – NOT call attention to herself. Noomi Rapace had a forced pit-bull ferocity with no sense of humanity or deeper emotion than brooding anger or just out and out rage. Rooney Mara offers up a truer, waif-like punker who shows some glimpses of vulnerability, a need to be understood, and a desire to be “close” to someone, anyone. I LIKE this person, in spite of all the violence and her desire to be left alone. And I LIKE that I like her. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be interested in her welfare or seeing her in the movie in the first place. I found the new version to be leaps and bounds better than the muddled Swedish version. But as I keep suggesting, go see the new film for yourself and be your own judge. If you read the books, you cannot help but be satisfied with Fincher’s view of the characters.

    • You seem to have not read my review, as I praise Mara as you do, and I never once imply that this film is worse because it is an American remake. In fact, I don’t mention once that this is a remake.

  2. Skye says:

    @khambher2525 perhaps you would like to read the whole thing again? I haven’t read the books but I bet it’s nothing spectacularly different from anything I’ve read or heard of before. I am not a film graduate but I’ve watched enough movies in my life to understand that great movies stem from good storytelling. It has little to do with whether or not it’s Hollywood or European (as you called it). A ‘better-crafted, better edited, better casted, more stylized, more “polished” remake doesn’t necessarily translate to great movie too. @TDS, great review btw. I don’t know which part of this review that is ‘verbose’ or ‘over-analyse’.

  3. ouch. it is detailed, but i think because the source plot is just that, it’s hard not to have it that way. but i think fincher’s style more than made up for that. and, while good in the role, i don’t think mara is the only good actor in the movie. i also though craig and skarsgaard, as well as plummer and the entire victim’s family were all rather interesting…

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