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STAR RATINGS EXPLAINED
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POSTER ART
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FILM DETAILS
Certificate
18
Cast
Daniel Craig
Rooney Mara
Stella Skarsgard.
Directors
David Fincher.
Screenwriters
Steven Zaillian.
Running Time
158 minutes

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The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
Rape, chrome dildos, emotional scars - Merry Christmas!


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Plot
After losing a ruinous libel case to a famous businessman, disgraced Swedish political journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Craig) is contacted by a rich industrialist, Henrik Vanger (Plummer), who needs help with his memoirs. However, Blomkvist soon finds that Vanger is more concerned with finding the murderer of his favourite great-niece, who disappeared from their family's island in 1966.


Review
The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
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"Fuck You You Fucking Fucker." The T-shirt (briefly) worn by Rooney Mara’s Lisbeth Salander in David Fincher’s adaptation of Stieg Larsson’s bestselling novel speaks volumes. First of all, it addresses the nay-sayers who thought Niels Arden Oplev’s 2009 original should be left alone — not because it was any kind of cinematic masterpiece, but because the previously unknown Noomi Rapace’s centrepiece performance was deemed definitive. But it also deftly represents The Social Network director’s personality. While aspects of the media disparaged his awards-season chances against The King’s Speech last year, Fincher was already disengaged from the beauty contest and hard at work on this excellent, often pitch-dark but otherwise almost note-perfect thriller.

It was, it must be said, a weird thing to want to do: remake a European hit so soon after its original release. But Fincher’s effort is perhaps the film Larsson’s book deserved all along; it may largely be faithful to the main story, but Steven Zaillian’s economic, witty script compacts and tidies up the minor details that make the difference between a very good literary adaptation and a gripping cinematic thriller. And while Blomkvist’s labyrinthine travails reappear in the last half hour, Fincher’s film sensibly concentrates on the whodunnit element — most smartly of all, dispensing with the strange quirk of Swedish justice that allowed Blomkvist to go to jail at the very end of the original.

Instead, Blomkvist is a ruined man, and Craig is the perfect foil to the eventual, explosive arrival of The Girl. Even though everyone else seems to have a Swedish accent, however slight, Craig plays it with his own, but surprisingly the effect doesn’t jar. Bleary-eyed, stubbled and often seen in disturbingly unfashionable winceyette pyjama bottoms, Blomkvist is a low-key, effective everyman in what could easily be an overplayed, hokey story. The wonderful Christopher Plummer — excellent in Mike Mills’ Beginners too, and looking at an Oscar nomination either way — is especially delicious in this regard, inviting the writer into a story that involves “thieves, misers, bullies — the most detestable collection of people you will ever meet”. Then he adds the clincher: “My family.”

The Girl herself takes her time, and Lisbeth’s story takes a good while to bed down as Blomkvist gets to grips with the dysfunctional Vangers. And without wishing to get too caught up in comparisons with the other movie, Mara’s performance completely holds its own here. Where Rapace was aloof and flinty, Mara is more childlike and mercurial. Her actual age (withheld, for good reason, for most of the film’s running time) is hard to fathom. When she flips her hoodie she could be a 14 year-old boy; when being raped (rather graphically) by her legal guardian she could be any underage girl. But when she’s in control — which is much more satisfyingly shown here, given the age gap between herself and Blomkvist — she is most definitely a woman.

The main thing, however, is perhaps how much Fincher has grown into the role of auteur, without apparently trying or even wanting to. While it appears to be another one of Fincher’s five-finger exercises — like Panic Room or The Game — this is a film that could prove to be a key work when the big study book is written. The oily, exhilarating credit sequence suggests a knowing, Fight Club-style subversion of Craig’s 007 persona; the awkward parental bond between Blomkvist and his daughter recalls the wistful poetry of Benjamin Button; Vanger’s need for closure echoes that of Robert Graysmith in Zodiac; the film’s casual, slyly funny cyberpunk heroism makes a great counterpoint to the dry, sceptical satire of The Social Network, and the whole film is suffused with the harsh brutality of Seven.

Are there flaws? Well, arguably, in the decompressing final stretch, which relates back to the book and opens the door to the possibility/inevitability of a trilogy. But that also enables an ostensibly hard film to wind down to a surprisingly tender climax. Though Fincher professes to be a hard-ass both professionally and aesthetically — and with its not-to-be-underestimated moments of anal rape and torture, his film is not for the faint-hearted — The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo says more about broken hearts than broken people. Which, to address the nay-sayers, is where Fincher went right.


Verdict
A tough, post-punk Tintin-meets-Klute for the Occupy Wall Street set, this kinetic, hard-edged thriller is the perfect festive comedown for Fincher fans and dysfunctional families everywhere.


Reviewed by Damon Wise

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Your Reviews

Average user rating for The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
Empire Star Rating

Great adaptation

I much prefer this to the Swedish adap (which I saw before this one, just so you know) and the wonderful Rooney Mara captures Lisbeth 100% perfect like no other page-to-screen portrayal I've ever seen. So, another typically brilliant thriller from David Fincher then. I really hope they let him direct the others because, while I still like the Swedish Dragon Tattoo, the other two movie adaptations were utter crap in my opinion. Can't believe what this movie's box office performance was, especiall... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Mr Gittes at 19:43, 10 February 2013 | Report This Post


"May I kill him?"

David Fincher's US remake of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is an effectively dark and disturbing portrait of high society, as well as a compelling character study. Good, then. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by movienut707 at 08:53, 18 December 2012 | Report This Post


The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

In some aspects, David Fincher's adaption of Stieg Larsson’s novel is actually better that it's Swedish counter-part due to the visual style and a more humanized script. But it just isn't as iconic as before, so a star must be deducted. Otherwise, The (English) Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is a five-star worthy thriller packed with a supurb narrative, beautiful tech work, and a mind-blowing performance by Rooney Mara. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by norgizfox at 03:22, 14 July 2012 | Report This Post


RE: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo Review

It was a really good, well made, well acted film but it was pretty much a carbon copy of the Swedish Original. I would only be interested in anymore if everyone stays onboard, including Fincher. Like the poster above I wasnt that bothered for the Swedish sequels. ... More

Posted by Dirk Miggler at 23:47, 06 June 2012 | Report This Post


RE: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo Review

L: the film man Brutal yet captivating, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is the result of David Fincher working at his lurid best with total role commitment from star Rooney Mara making it better than the Swedish version. I am intreged to see where this trilogy goes since the Swedish trilogy got less satisying as it went along. didn't really see the point in re-doing this movie, however I do see the point in re-doing the sequels as they were, quite frankly, a bit shit, so I was willi... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Barry Bethal at 12:18, 28 May 2012 | Report This Post


Good, but pointless

Rooney Mara is brilliant in this, but the film as a whole is a pointless remake. Well worth watching if you haven't watched the original or can't deal with subtitles, but in other respects barely even a recognisable Fincher movie other than the Trent Reznor soundtrack. On its own merits it's an excellent movie, just a disappointing Fincher one. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by NeeNahNye at 21:56, 10 May 2012 | Report This Post


MARA. IS. AMAZING.

This, I thought, was a 100% perfect match for Fincher, even though I'd never the seen film, but I was totally impressed, and taken back, even though I'd seen the swedish film first, and it definately gave some fierce competition, but wasn't a shot for shot remake. The film was totally independent, whilst winking to the swedish film at the same time. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by YouWillBeUnprepared at 05:51, 08 May 2012 | Report This Post


MARA. IS. AMAZING.

This, I thought, was a 100% perfect match for Fincher, even though I'd never the seen film, but I was totally impressed, and taken back, even though I'd seen the swedish film first, and it definately gave some fierce competition, but wasn't a shot for shot remake. The film was totally independent, whilst winking to the swedish film at the same time. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by YouWillBeUnprepared at 05:51, 08 May 2012 | Report This Post


RE: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo Review

A quality remake! Well I never... I have to say when I first heard of this I was dreading it. Oh Mr Fincher, when will I ever learn. Still taking me to school and proving me to just trust good film makers. I thought the performances were brilliant, Rooney Mara is a revelation. I didn't think she could top Noomi Repace, but she totally side stepped the cravas and did her own thing. Brave, bold and oh so rare from an actress of todays big screen films. In my opinion she really should have... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Rich Empire at 19:34, 04 May 2012 | Report This Post


The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo Review

Brutal yet captivating, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is the result of David Fincher working at his lurid best with total role commitment from star Rooney Mara making it better than the Swedish version. I am intreged to see where this trilogy goes since the Swedish trilogy got less satisying as it went along. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by the film man at 15:48, 12 April 2012 | Report This Post


The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo Review

This film was definitely better than the Swedish original as it had more personality, fantastic editing and a strong cast. Many will question whether there was a need for a Hollywood remake at all; and while the answer is no, I still believe that when watching this film it provides a more Swedish vibe than the Swedish one itself. The intoxicating acting of Rooney Mara keeps one engaged throughout the whole film, and despite the accent, this film has widened my eyes to the acting ability of Danie... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by DaleLawson at 14:14, 11 March 2012 | Report This Post


tp://www.imdb.com/title/tt1568346/]The Girl With The Dragon Tattoohen this remake was announced I, to put it mildly, didn`t really like the idea of it. The Swedish original was very good so I wasn`t waiting for an American remake. I`m gonna have to,luckily, scratch that opinion after watching it. Fincher`s version does look a lot smoother and more Hollywood (especially in the camera work and editing departments) than the original but other than there`s really not a whole lot to dislike here. I... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by TheGodfather at 23:20, 23 February 2012 | Report This Post


RE: Fincher Kicked My Cynical Ass

I have huge like for the original swedish adaptions,so its very unlikely i'll go near this and coming remakes. ... More

Posted by OPEN YOUR EYES at 11:06, 08 February 2012 | Report This Post


RE: Fincher Kicked My Cynical Ass

Personally I couldn't make it more than an hour through the film. I found it to be completely and utterly boring. Daniel Craig phones in his performance, Rooney Mara at times was so believable as a vulnerable, untrusting girl and then would deliver lines with such blandness and monotone. The pacing was incredibly slow, it really felt as if this was a short story being dragged out to an hour longer than it should have been. What little story there appeared to be anyway. More a collection of loos... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Kayotik at 10:54, 08 February 2012 | Report This Post


Fincher Kicked My Cynical Ass

Last night, I walked into The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo fostering a number of prejudices. I couldn’t understand why David Fincher would direct a remake of a bestselling novel. I scoffed at the idea that Americans are afraid of subtitles. I sighed impatiently after realising that the running time was two hours and forty minutes. I ended up enjoying the Hell out of it. As the opening credits explode onscreen, Fincher sets the tone for what is a brutally confident and visually aggressive... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Artificial Luddite at 20:35, 15 January 2012 | Report This Post


better

A better paced and more stylishly done take. As good as Rapace was, Rooney Mara is a better fit. Still quite slow.... but fincher does a great job of keeping it tense. Looking for to parts 2 and 3. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Samurai7 at 11:19, 13 January 2012 | Report This Post


Objectively speaking, a great film

Not sure there was really a need for this movie, but aside from that i was impressed. Both are comparable in quality but I actually thought it was more accomplished than the Swedish version. Mara is a more sympathetic lead (than the also great Rapace) and thanks to the script has more of an arc. The narractive is more efficient and has less exposition (odd for a Hollywood movie) and Fincher puts more focus on atmopshere than shocks (e.g he removes the silly jumpy scene where he goes to se... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by spideed2 at 13:08, 10 January 2012 | Report This Post


Not sure if I want to see it now.

I read the books first and loved them. Saw the original film and wasn't impressed. Thought it was too quick and left out major characters. I was really looking forward to seeing this hoping it was better than the original. THEN. For christmas i got the films on DVD, the extended versions. Basically there was a TV series which put each film into about two, two hour parts. They're superb. Faithful to the books. Now I'm not too sure if I want to see this version now. Will need to but will compare. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Shinymetalass at 10:48, 10 January 2012 | Report This Post


Not sure if I want to see it now.

I read the books first and loved them. Saw the original film and wasn't impressed. Thought it was too quick and left out major characters. I was really looking forward to seeing this hoping it was better than the original. THEN. For christmas i got the films on DVD, the extended versions. Basically there was a TV series which put each film into about two, two hour parts. They're superb. Faithful to the books. Now I'm not too sure if I want to see this version now. Will need to but will compare. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Shinymetalass at 10:48, 10 January 2012 | Report This Post


RE: The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

guess it depends on hpw much there is to discuss, here people are largely on the same. not masses of arguments except on the nature of remakes. I saw it having neither seen not read any other versions and it id one of the best films i've seen in the last year and would say it is Finchers second best film after se7en. Sorry fight club while good never really did it for me. The only downside was the running time in relation to the comfortability of the cinema seat factor. ... More

Posted by genejoke at 17:37, 09 January 2012 | Report This Post


RE: The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

I have not read the book. I have not seen the Swedish film adaptation. I really enjoyed this film. It was engrossing and adult in a way that many films aren't these days. That's not to say that the harrowing nature of certain scenes "made" the film; they didn't. But in a world where Hollywood panders to the widest demographic, an 18 certificate film is a rare beast. It's very telling that this film has only two pages on the Empire forums whilst many other, lesser films generate pag... More

Posted by Gazdance at 19:58, 08 January 2012 | Report This Post


RE: The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

I saw the old one and found it interesting! I like the cyber hacker she was cool. The only let down for me is there wasn't investigation of several family members which would of made viewing more exciting . It needed more information. ... More

Posted by sugarbabe1978 at 08:43, 06 January 2012 | Report This Post


RE: The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

Probably my most moaned about film of the last two years. My quandary was to do with how upset and depressed I was by the original next to how much I dig Fincher, and how I had long ago vowed to see all his output on the screen they call big. Even the ting through this tale again was exhausting. So the full marks given here is really tied to the result; pretty much a true opposite to the frayed expectation. I sat through this conscious of a polite and mild mannered form of elation – I blame the... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by demoncleaner at 00:19, 06 January 2012 | Report This Post


Fincher trumps it for me

Seen Both twice now and I have to admit to prefering Fincher's version. It's more cinematic, darker, more brooding. The score and cinematography have alot to do with this atmophere but overall Fincher makes the film a much more cinematic experience. I think the characters are much better layered here. I loved the ending. It gave Lisbeth a much clearer character arc as we watch Mara become stripped untill she succombs to her feelings for Blomqvist. Their first meeting is also much better as Craig... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by bnicholson50 at 22:50, 05 January 2012 | Report This Post


RE: RE:

Wasn't a fan of the original Swedish film which really disappointed me but loved this thought it was a lot truer to the book, the characters got a lot more fleshed out and the ending was brilliant it sets up the next two installments very well and I really hope that Fincher is back for those two as well. The direction was fantastic, the filming of the rape scene was handled really well the shot of backing away from the door completely fooled me I thought it wasn't going to be done. I thought Ma... More

Posted by matthewforan at 20:45, 05 January 2012 | Report This Post


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