Review: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

By Robert Bayley

This review contains minor spoilers.

The new adaption of Steig Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo starts out very promisingly.

Its got a cracking title sequence that puts the sanitised and conservative one’s of Daniel Craig’s (who plays leading protagonist Mikael Blomkvist in this film) tenure as James Bond to shame.

The opening scenario of Blomkvist’s court case fallout is a strong one, with Craig distancing himself, if not totally, from his iconic persona.

As the film progresses he forms a well defined and memorable character that really helps anchor the film and gives us something to relate to.

Rooney Mara is getting a lot of praise for her work but Craig really deserves a lot of credit for his effort in a less ostentatiously written role.

That’s not to say Mara isn’t great. She’s got a real fire and powerhouse energy within her that lends energy, pace and fission to a film which otherwise would sorely lack it.

Her character, Lisbeth Salander could have been played and written with more vulnerability which would have saved her from being the comic book character she is.

Unfortunately, her behaviour through the film smacks of a conceitedly and obviously constructed character whose machinations are plain and poorly hidden, but then that’s Mara’s achievment here.

She manages to make a character which would be two dimensional on paper something more realistic.

Stellan Skarsgård as Martin Vanger is, as always, a pleasure to watch and as the story progresses his mannerisms, while not changing, take on a new meaning within the context and Skarsgård’s portrayal fits both these opposing views of Vanger.

While there’s some fine acting in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo the rest of the film really needs to use these performances as a crutch to support its failings. The main story stalls around the mid-point when a photograph becomes the focus for the mystery.

While the surrounding character interactions keep the audience interested the main plot really needs beefing up.

By focusing on this one Mcguffin so singularly one feels the characters aren’t making much progress in solving the mystery, and when it becomes clear it’s the one item nearly all answers will stem from, one can’t help feel the plot has stagnated.

The film is nicely shot and there’s a very real feeling of the cold of northern Sweden and the setting nicely reflects the bleak tone of the piece with the colour palate being largely grey, quite suitable to the ambiguity of the characters and the central mystery.

Stand-out scenes come in the form of the shocking and brutal rape of Salander and isn’t purely sensationalist, casting a very dark shadow over the rest of the film. Her revenge is equally powerful and the soundtrack fits everything very well.

This is a film that manages to limp to the finish-line despite its problems based on excellent performances, but it screams out to be ‘alternative’ and ‘edgy’ far too hard and in doing that, fails to be so.

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