The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011) reviewed by Jonathan Berk

David Fincher is a filmmaker whose work I often respond to. I’m not sure if it’s his dark sensibilities or compelling material that he chooses, but I usually find myself fully drawn into his movies. I’d skipped The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011) for some reason, but I have remedied that and am very glad that I did so. Glad may not be the appropriate word as, like many of his other films, it gets really hard to sit through at times, but ultimately was very satisfying.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo has stayed with me since its conclusion

The film follows two characters, the first being Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) is a journalist who has recently lost a libel case and, in order to stay out of the spotlight for a while, takes a job investigating an old missing person case for Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plummer). The other character is Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara) who is an investigator in her own right with hacking skills and a chip on her shoulder. Their paths cross, once unknown to Mikael, and a bond forms.

Rooney Mara gives such an amazing performance as Lisbeth Salander. I’ve not seen the original trilogy of films, though they are now a high priority for me, Mara’s performance is so complex and nuanced it really made her shoot up on my favorite actress list. There is a sequence in this film that made my skin crawl – to be honest, there are a couple – but Lisbeth’s reaction to the events make you realize how dangerous this girl can be. You can see the rage building in her when that’s there, but she’s not as simple as that. There is an awkwardness to her, but also a confidence that emanates from her body language even when she looks slightly unsure of her surroundings. Things that shouldn’t make sense together do and it’s because of Mara.

Not to undersell Craig’s performance. He may be severely underappreciated as an actor because of his role with the modern Bond films.  Not that he’s bad as Bond, in fact, he is my favorite of the 007s, but I do think to take such an iconic role often damages a bit of credibility to some people’s perspectives. However, the other films I’ve seen him in (Layer Cake and Logan Lucky) he has always managed to win me over and I’ve found him excellent. He has a stoic charm that really works in the gray world Fincher has painted for Mikael to live in. The interactions Mikael has with the other characters add much to the mystery at the heart of the film.

The supporting cast in this film is also really great. While it would be easy to discuss Christopher Plummer, Stellan Skarsgård, and Robin Wright in great detail, the story demands its praise. The film has a noir vibe to it that is heavy on the character development though doesn’t give an inch to the mystery. Our lead characters are trying to solve an old missing person’s case that is likely a murder. As the suspects mount and the investigation takes a turn the pressure intensifies. Every dark twist this film takes makes the end of it all the more sensational. The characters are all so compelling and it’s a shame that this is where Fincher ended his time with the potential franchise.

Final thoughts…

The Girl with a Dragon Tattoo is definitely a film I’ll likely revisit despite the challenging material. I was so impressed with Mara and Craig and reminded of how much I enjoy Fincher. Luckily for me, I just bought this one cold and now have no regrets. Fincher’s take on Salander and Blomkvist gets the Must See rating.

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