There was a ton–and I mean a ton–of hype surrounding The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. It is based off of the first book of a highly successful trilogy, and a Swedish version of the film was released only two years ago and very well received by audiences and critics. I didn’t see that film and I haven’t read the book, and when the buzz around the trailer got so loud that I couldn’t hear myself think, I still wasn’t that excited for this movie. In fact, the only thing that really left me wanting to see The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was its director, David Fincher. And anyone who knows me know that my obsession with The Social Network knows no limits, and so anything that man directs from here on out will probably get my attention.
After seeing this movie, that notion is set in stone.
It is not hard to pick out the craftsmanship of Fincher. Especially because computers are involved, a lot of the shots look similar to some of those from The Social Network (Mark blogging, Lisbeth researching). This movie is undeniably graphic. The bluntness of the movie poster should give you some idea of just how raw and violent The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo aims to be, and there were definitely times when I struggled not to avert my eyes. This isn’t the film you go to see with your family on Christmas. But Fincher does well dealing with his source material–I think he wants to be honest. I never felt like things were being shown to me for pure shock value. Rather, Fincher tries to put you in the situations to feel the darkness that his characters–particularly Lisbeth–feel.
Without Lisbeth, the film feels almost exactly like a Bond film. From its opening credits to Daniel Craig to the villain describing everything from a gas chamber in his basement, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo screams “Bond.” Except for Lisbeth, played by a marvelous Rooney Mara. It was hard to see her as the girl dumping Mark Zuckerberg. She completely disappeared into this role, threw herself into it with a dedication and intensity I cannot fathom. The physical changes, the near-perfect accent, the look she projected from her big, blue eyes–she owns this movie. She is the James Bond of this film. It’s funny, when Craig’s Mikael is on his own, you are scared for his safety. When he’s with Lisbeth, you know he’ll be all right.
The plot itself–the Vanger family mystery–is compelling but not original. It’s Bond, it’s Law and Order SVU, it’s a serial killer thriller. It makes for a good guy film. But this film is so much more–so much deeper–than just another action film. It does not shy away from darkness, but revels in it. It does not exclude humor though–Lisbeth’s deadpan can draw out a laugh every now and then.
The one negative thing I will say is that the ending drags. There is an extra fifteen minutes with a plot of its own that doesn’t really add much to the film. It gives you a little closure, but there had to be a tidier way to do it. There are going to be two sequels, right? Figure out a way to work it into them.