The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011)

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I had heard that this film was dark, disturbing, and haunting. It is certainly all of those things. However, it is also beautiful, thrilling, and bold.

I really enjoyed the way that the story was constructed, building a world instead of forcing the narrative into one. The way that the film eases the viewer into the lives of Mikael (Daniel Craig) and Lisbeth (Rooney Mara) was enthralling and refreshing. I found myself caring much more about these characters than I would have if they’d just been dumped into a cliche murder mystery.

Like many of David Fincher’s films, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo doesn’t hold your hand. It doesn’t spell everything out for you in neon letters. It isn’t obsessed with providing answers, instead allowing the viewer to piece together the puzzle themselves.

Every performance in this film is spectacular. The chemistry between Craig and Mara is intoxicating, and it spills over into their performances. Their characters just feel right together, complimenting each other in the ways that each are deficient. Stellen Skarsgard does an excellent job portraying Martin as a kind, normal man; and the reveal of his true nature is chilling.

The inquisitive portion of my brain would have loved a reason for the way that Martin’s father killed his victims, an explanation for his use of the Biblical references. Whether that is a facet of Fincher denying the viewer an easy answer or an unfortunate oversight, I’m not certain.

I thought that the final portion of the film felt extremely forced, and was incredibly difficult to follow. I had no idea what Lisbeth was doing, and the reveal was inconsequential. I haven’t read the novel, so I don’t know if it held some greater importance there.

There is one scene that I have an immense problem with in this film, keeping me from counting it as one of my favorites: the scene where Lisbeth is raped. I understand the purpose, but I think that showing it was unnecessarily gratuitous and exploitative. Rape is horrible enough that it could have been implied to the same effect, without subjecting the viewer to the details. Not one person would think that the rape was any less horrible because they didn’t see it.

Overall, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is an excellent thriller and it is disappointing that Fincher will not direct the rest of the series. I would have much preferred a sequel to this instead of the dumpster fire that is Gone Girl.

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