Old Archives


We are part of The Trust Project

Despite “The Girl…” series of Swedish novels being international blockbusters, the Hollywood version of the first book isn’t yet selling out U.S. theaters. Are you one of the bystanders—curious about David Fincher’s take on the book, but a little leery of what you might have to sit through? Read these Reel Answers to see if this film is for you….

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Directed by David Fincher
Starring Daniel Craig, Rooney Mara, Christopher Plummer, Robin Wright

What is it about?

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo tells the parallel stories of Mikael Blomquist (Daniel Craig), a discredited reporter hired by a rich Swedish family to find out what really happened to their missing daughter in the 1960s, and computer hacker/researcher Lisbeth Salander, a bizarre young woman who is sorting out her unhappy personal life in unique ways. Their paths cross when Mikael hires Lisbeth to help him with his case—and suddenly their lives are in peril.

Is the movie’s plot similar to the book or something very different?

The film hews closely to Stieg Larsson’s novel (which in Sweden has the telling title Men Who Hate Women). Along the way, award-winning screenwriter Steve Zaillian (Moneyball, Schindler’s List) condenses Larsson’s wordy procedural, stuffed with Swedish names and places, into a sleek two-and-a-half hour bullet ride which is a service to noir fans everywhere. And for all its condensation, the film captures the tone and characters quite well—they’re still chilly, screwed-up, and sex-obsessed.

If I haven’t read the book, will I still “get” the film?

The film definitely stands on its own as a cinematic psychological thriller along the lines of Silence of the Lambs and Se7en, with a smarter version of Angelina Jolie–type tattooed action thrills thrown in. If those types of films are your cup of tea, you’ll probably like Dragon Tattoo.

How dark and violent is The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo?

Director David Fincher (The Social Network, Zodiac, Se7en) is known for “dark,” both in subject matter and lighting, and this movie fits right into his oeuvre. The violence he shows is both actual and implied, like many a thriller, but seems more personal since the main objects of it are women (some in the distant past) rather than impervious superheroes or soldiers. Note that this story’s main character may be a woman who experiences a harrowing assault, but she is hardly defenseless, which makes for a satisfying twist. In the end, this is populist Hollywood entertainment, slick and entertaining—and not meant to be a horror film.

There have been raves and pans of the actors in The Girl…. How are they?

Daniel Craig has drawn some criticism for his low-key performance, but he comes off as a sympathetic, realistic journalist rather than a clichéd action hero. In Craig’s quietly intense incarnation of Mikael Blomquist you get some sense of why smart women are always wanting to jump into bed with him. Rooney Mara as Salander is just plain interesting to watch, with her blank Goth face that sometimes reveals more than it hides. Her whole affect sometimes reminded me of a female Edward Scissorshands—but she rides a motorcycle much better than Edward would have.

Why isn’t the movie performing as well as expected?

The film’s story is very familiar to many, via the book (which at one point everyone seemed to be reading) and the popular Swedish film adaptation, which earned $100 million worldwide in 2009. (But you can see why Sony decided to do their American version of the book: the huge sales of the book meant a lot of brand recognition and built-in curiosity to build upon, and many Americans had skipped the Swedish film due to its subtitles.) Also, David Fincher is of a bit a specialty director, and his dark, chilly films aren’t typical popcorn franchise films, like the latest super-popular Mission Impossible iteration dominating IMAX right now. You’re not sure how disturbing Fincher’s films will get, and many people just aren’t into that, especially during the holiday season.

Do I need to see this movie in the theaters or can I wait til the DVD?

This movie definitely has its wow cinematic moments in both Stockholm and on a frosty Swedish island, accompanied by a powerfully tense soundtrack (by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross of the band Nine Inch Nails and winners of the 2010 Academy Award for Best Original Score for The Social Network). The look and sound of the film benefit from being seen on the big screen, but this could also be enjoyed later at home, like a really long, foreign episode of CSI. Just remember to leave a light on so you don’t get too creeped out in the dark.

Will I need tissues?


My Reel Answers column aims to boil down film reviewing to its essence: answering questions (without divulging key plot points) you might have about a popular movie before plunking down your hard-earned money to see it.

Please visit http://reelanswers.net to see past movies and DVDs I’ve reviewed, and let me know what questions you have about upcoming movies that I can answer.

When not watching and reviewing movies, I run a consulting business helping successful creatives ramp up their online presence via websites, ebooks, and social media at http://laura-e-kelly.com.         —Laura


We'd love for you to support our work by joining as a free, partial access subscriber, or by registering as a full access member. Members get full access to all of our content, and receive a variety of bonus perks like free show tickets. Learn more here.