The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2009) Review

This film would be just as effective with some of the darker, more edgy and mature elements removed. I have never read the books that the trilogy is based on and I’m all for the films being as accurate to the books as possible but during the rape scenes and some of the other, darker elements, I was left thinking that they were put in for shock factor alone. An edge to place this film above others in the mystery genre that this film essentially falls into.

I’m sure the argument would be that they are key to fleshing out and expanding the character of Lisbeth but even in this context they didn’t feel necessary. If the scenes with her “guardian” were removed, would any of her actions or any other aspect of the film be less clear or unexplained. I think the answer is no and it was a sticking point for me because as the credits on the film rolled, I was left wondering why they bothered to include elements that did nothing to add to the story and only made the film a higher rating with a notorious reputation.

Is the darker, more mature material necessary to the overall film?

I was impressed with the aspects of the film that were concerned with the “main” story though. The mystery surrounding the Vanger family was engrossing and well written. There was enough “detective work” being done that it felt like a true investigation was actually occurring rather than using coincidence or “right place at the right time” story elements that some movie mysteries rely on. It also helped that the Vander family were terrifyingly creepy in their own right and that the main thread running through the mystery gave the film the edge that it seems to so desperately want with its inclusion of difficult to view scenes.

One thing you can say about the darker scenes in the film is that they were fantastically acted. Noomi Rapace is brilliant as Lisbeth and throws herself into the material, looking almost unrecognisable compared to her Prometheus role, which was the first film I’d actually seen the actress in. Michael Nyqvist has his own share of heavy lifting, especially towards the end of the film as the mystery reaches its revelation and climax. He is the perfect “average man” to compliment the more unusual look of his computer hacking partner.

Noomi Rapace is fantastic as Lisbeth.

The film has a great story that had me intrigued and mystified until the very satisfying and well explained conclusion. I always struggle with mystery or police drama films, usually because the running time of movie doesn’t compliment a full, investigative story very well. I believe that is why there is a ridiculous amount of these kind of shows on television, but The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is a great example of how to present the genre properly, even if the running time is quite long to accommodate.

The mystery within the film is given enough time to be told properly.

I would be interested to see how David Fincher remade this film and how Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara managed to fit into the roles that have already been played very well. I also wonder how much of the darker material made the US version and whether it fits onto the story slightly better than in the Swedish version, where I still feel it was added as more of a “selling point” or marketing tool.

Overall, the mystery contained within the film is fantastic and the movie demonstrates how to present a murder mystery or police investigation on film well, without the reliance of coincidence or luck to progress the story. The performances are brilliant but I still wonder whether all the darker material was actually that necessary as it didn’t really add anything to the film as a whole.

Rating 3.5

(1 – Awful, 2 – Average, 3 – Good, 4 – Great, 5! – Must See)

It does leave me even more intrigued as to how the 2011 version compares.

5 thoughts on “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2009) Review

  1. Fincher’s version is even more graphic for the rape scenes, so be warned. Still, the scenes, while graphic, do serve their purpose for crafting Lisbeth’s character (for the entire trilogy).

    1. Maybe I need to see the whole trilogy before they make sense to me. I just didn’t see the link between the graphic scenes and the overall murder mystery story.

      1. You’re right, there is no real link between those two stories. The stuff with Lisbeth is really just setup for her character, whom Stieg Larson intended for a longer series of books than a trilogy.

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