THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO (2011)
Bloated, Wasted, NC-17 Effort Full of Brutality and Revenge
Release Date: December 21, 2011
Genre: Mystery Thriller
Runtime: 158 minutes
Distributor: Columbia Pictures/Sony Pictures Entertainment
Director: David Fincher
Writer: Steven Zaillian
Address Comments To:Michael Lynton, Chairman/CEO
Amy Pascal, Chairman - Motion Picture Group
Sony Pictures Entertainment (Columbia Pictures/TriStar/Screen Gems/Affirm Films)
10202 West Washington Blvd.
Culver City, CA 90232-3195
Phone: (310) 244-4000; Fax: (310) 244-2626
Web Page: www.spe.sony.com/
An elderly man named Henrik Vanger from a rich family with numerous business interests hires Mikael, a journalist falsely sentenced for libel, to investigate the disappearance 40 years ago of Henrik’s beloved niece, Harriet. Harriet used to do framed nature displays for Henrik on his birthday, and he’s been getting them from her killer every year since she disappeared.
Henrik tells Mikael that the Vanger clan is full of terrible people. He believes a powerful family member may have killed Harriet, perhaps one of his two brothers who had links to the Nazi Party. Only one of Henrik’s two brothers and the dead brother’s son, Harriet’s own brother Martin, are still living, however.
Henrik has a guesthouse on the island where the family’s large estate is located. Mikael moves into the guesthouse to conduct his investigation. With help from his Christian daughter, Mikael learns a cryptic set of phone numbers next to some initials are really references to the Book of Leviticus. He also figures out that one of the initials is linked to the unsolved brutal murder of a woman in 1949.
When Henrik suffers a small stroke, Mikael gets help from a troubled, tattooed, pierced computer hacker named Lisbeth, who has troubles of her own with her new parole officer or social worker, a sadomasochistic bureaucrat who takes control of all her bank accounts. He starts to extort crude sexual favors from Lisbeth in exchange for money. Lisbeth played a role in checking out Mikael for Henrik and has secretly hacked onto Mikael’s computer so she can follow his movements.
After getting revenge and turning the tables on the evil bureaucrat, who rapes her in one brutal scene, Lisbeth joins Mikael in his investigation. He asks her to see if the other initials in Harriet’s Bible are also female murder victims. As they follow the trail, viewers learn more secrets about the Vanger family, Lisbeth, and Harriet, the missing Vanger girl.
THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO fails to connect. The wild rock song featured in the trailer only shows up during the credits, so viewers expecting anything really exciting will be sorely disappointed. Instead, viewers will be offended by the brutal sexual violence depicted in the movie, and some will find offense with the murky, mixed, and potentially misleading use of Bible verses from the Book of Leviticus. Also, Daniel Craig as Mikael is too cold and distant, and Rooney Mara as Lisbeth doesn’t have the same electric energy that Noomi Rapace brought to the Swedish film version. Moreover, it seems to take longer to bring the two main characters together, and longer to tell their individual stories. Finally, the way that the movie is edited makes parts of the story seem confusing and overlong at times.
Like the Swedish movie, there are three disturbing, brutal, offensive scenes involving the sadomasochistic social worker. One of these scenes extols exacting cruel revenge on those who have abused you. At one of the screenings we attended, people were cheering as Lisbeth takes brutal revenge on the evil bureaucrat who raped her. Furthermore, although Lisbeth sleeps with a woman in one scene, she begins a torrid, explicit affair with Mikael. THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO also contains some strong foul language, a murky and potentially misleading use of Bible verses, and depictions of extreme violence, including a graphic, disturbing rape scene and a disturbing humiliation scene. Thus, while the serial killer is exposed and defeated, and the old client finds out what happened to his beloved niece, the movie’s graphic content and explicit nudity are way over the top. Also, most of the really offensive content has nothing whatever to do with the mystery of the missing niece and the serial killer plot, though some of it comes into play again in the second novel about the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.
That said, this movie is clearly not recommended for any moviegoer. THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO should be rated NC-17, not R, so shame and scorn on the MPAA, which determines these bogus ratings. Even better, of course, the movie should not have been made at all.
THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO is not as riveting as the recent Swedish movie based on the popular novel. Also, like that movie, there are three extremely disturbing scenes involving the sadomasochistic bureaucrat. Furthermore, although Lisbeth sleeps with a woman, she begins a torrid affair with Mikael. The niece is found and the serial killer stopped, but THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO contains strong foul language and depictions of extreme sexual violence and revenge that moviegoers will avoid at all costs.