Animadversion: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo – Reviewed by Farheen Jawaid

The post below is an unedited copy of the version published in our film review column “Animadversion”, IMAGES on SUNDAY, 15th January 2012 (Dawn Newspaper). Official links and hardcopy’s images at the end of the post.


Punked-up Goth Girl, both Intelligent and Violent

By Farheen Jawaid

With “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”, David Fincher gets back to the basics of his career – a quintessential thriller set in a world of dark hidden terrors, riddled with violence so deeply seeded that it cuts to the core. And that’s where our heroine works. She is an investigator – a sharply pierced Goth-girl – who looks as dark as this world.

“The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” (original Swedish title “Men Who Hate Women”) adapts the first book of Stieg Larsson’s hit book series, the Millennium trilogy, all of which have been made into Swedish movies.

The plot opens with Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) and Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara) both starting out separately, facing their individual struggles.

Mikael, a reporter at a magazine named Millennium, has lost a libel suit for false reporting against a big financial mogul Wennerström (Ulf Friberg). Tainted professionally and financially, he accepts the job of writing memoires of Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plummer), the retired head of Vanger Empire in order to get discriminating information on Wennerström. However in reality Mikael is hired to unearth the mystery of his niece’s disappearance from their small island residence, decades ago. It is believed, by Henrik’s eccentric family – which includes a subdued Stellan Saarsgrad, playing the CEO of Vanger Empire – that she was killed in cold blood.

While that is established, we get glimpses of Lisbeth’s life. First we’re introduced to her as a tech savvy investigator, who is hired to check Mikael’s background before he was approached by Henrik’s lawyer, Frode (Steven Berkoff). Then, she is revealed as a disturbed girl who is still the ward of the state because of her mental instability.

Lisabeth is a complex character who doesn’t say much. Striving for the state’s money to survive, she’s sexually abused by her new guardian/lawyer – an act we’re led to believe, she has a history of.

Lisbeth and Mikael’s paths arch after a good half of the movie has passed and characters are fully established, thanks to a strong screenplay by Steven Zillian (Gladiator, Moneyball) – a writer, who of late doesn’t seem able to do anything wrong. The same can be said for the edgy score from Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross.

Directed with craftiness that comes from making top notch thrillers like Se7en and Zodiac, David Fincher has the uncanny talent of laying out the terror and debauchery of violence in his movies – which he unflinchingly amplifies in the “Dragon Tattoo”. Make no mistake, the film is strictly rated R.

Rooney Mara is a powerhouse as Lisbeth. Her anorexic state, paleness, harshly cut ink black Mohawk and countless piercing bemoans anguish. Daniel Craig, playing a subdued detective, effectively carries the role – almost making me forget he is the reintroduced James Bond of our times. In one scene, he almost cries, as Lisbeth stiches a gash on his forehead.

“The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” is an intelligently crafted thriller that knows how to pace itself in its overly long running time of 158 minutes, without falling into cliché, mediocrity or absurdity.

The film is rated R for strong sexual content, gruesome torture and flashes of unrelenting violence.

Published version is at:

15-01-2012 (Dragon Tattoo)



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