The Girls With the Dragon Tattoos (2009, 2011) (warning: spoilers and 1.5 naked breasts below)


I just watched the David Fincher version of “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.” Last week, I watched the Swedish version. They’re both good movies. Nonetheless, I figured I’d break them down, part by part, and see how the Fincher adaptation compares to its Swedish counterpart.

Mikhail Blomkvist:
When first I heard Fincher had cast Daniel Craig as Blomkvist, I thought Stieg Larsson would approve, this since I’m sure he fancied himself a stud-journalist. I had to laugh after Blomkvist was shot, and he was in the shower. Simply, Craig could wear glasses and slouch the rest of the film, but he still has better biceps than any journalist I’ve ever met.

I thought Michael Nyqvist in the Swedish version better captured Blomkvist as I’d imagined him: a good-looking guy, but still a normal 40-something man, not James Bond.

Here we also run into the inevitable accent question. Michael Nyqvist managed a perfect Swedish accent. Of course, this is because he spoke in SWEDISH. Craig, of course, spoke English. I wasn’t sure how the actors would handle accents: would English and American actors attempt Swedish accents? Or would they each speak with his or her own accent? Daniel Craig seemed to be trying to sound American–or maybe Swedish–but kept lapsing into stage actor British. It bothered me sometimes. Other than that, I was impressed with how non-Bond he was.

Still: Nyqvist A, Craig B

Lisbeth Salander:
The first time I saw the Swedish version, I was blown away by Noomi Rapace’s portrayal of Lisbeth. She seemed too tall, but I understand there aren’t many 4’11” tall actresses old enough to be Lisbeth. I thought she was amazing, especially in the incredibly tough violent scenes, and the horrifying rape scenes. I can’t imagine how awful those were. Anyway, this was a lock, I told myself.
Not so fast. Rooney Mara was also splendid. I thought she sounded vaguely Irish in early parts, but she evened out with a Swedishish accent (sic). Also, I think she was a little better at showing Lisbeth letting down her guard with Blomkvist. There’s no way to put every bit of Lisbeth’s personality on the screen–the movie would be a week long. I thought Mara’s choices were good.

Rapace: A-, Mara: A-

Henrik Vanger:
Both Henrik Vangers were fine. A’s for each of them. A bonus point for Christopher Plummer, just because he’s awesome, and he won a Supporting Actor Oscar this year (for another movie, but still: big +1 for him)

Martin Vanger:

I found the Martin Vanger character in each film to be the most compelling. In the book, Martin was an obvious ally to Blomkvist till the final puzzle piece fell into place. Peter Haber in the Swedish one fooled me longer, I think, but Stellan Skarsgård could teach graduate level seminars in film villain-playing. Also, Skarsgård’s Swedish accent was perfect (grin). The Martin roles were slightly different. The result was the same.

Haber: A, Skarsgård: A

Dirch Frode:

The 2009 Frode was fine. His role didn’t seem as big, but Ingvar Hirdwall did a good job.

Fincher hired one of my favorite villains to play Frode: Stephen “Victor Maitland in Beverly Hills Cop” Berkoff. He was creeptastic back then, and he’s still ookey. Even though Frode’s supposed to be friendly, I saw in Berkoff’s performance the shadow of Frode’s past as the Vangers’ wartime concigliere.

Hirdwall: B, Berkoff, A

Dragan Armansky:

Michalis Koutsogiammakis in the 2009 version seemed more like the book Armansky to me. Fincher hired Goran Visnjic, of “ER” fame. He was good, but all I could think of was that the dyed-white hair didn’t look right on Abby’s ex.

Koutsogiammakis: B+, Visnjic: B-

Nils Bjurman:

This was the biggest difference, in my opinion. The Swedish film featured Peter Andersson. He was creepy, oily, violent, and perverted. He made Bjurman just as loathsome as he was in the book.

Yorick van Wageningen was nowhere near as menacing during his scenes with Lisbeth. This may have been director Fincher’s wish, to pull back on the violence. These scenes were horrifying in the book, as well as in the Swedish film. They were difficult to watch, yes, but they are critical, and I didn’t buy this portrayal nearly as much as Andersson’s.

Andersson: A+, van Wageningen: C.

Fidelity to the story:
I’d call it even. The former glosses over the whole Irene Nesser bit. The latter eliminates Australia and Lisbeth’s mother. From a pure film standpoint, neither omission was a sin. I liked that Fincher showed that Lisbeth fell for Bond, DAMMIT, I mean Blomkvist, and matched the book’s ending fairly well.

I was surprised, but I thought the Swedish version was more violent, and there was more nudity. I mean, if you pay attention to nekkid punk grrls. 😉

Dragon Tattoos:
Rooney Mara’s dragon tattoo looked more like I imagined Lisbeth’s would look.


I admit, I eagerly anticipated seeing what David Fincher would do with this novel, and I think he made a good movie. I was surprised at how restrained his version was, though, compared with the Swedish version. Not that it was bad, or even tame. But when your opening credits are rapid cuts with menacing black figures in the background, and a screaming new version of “Immigrant Song,” it seems your movie would be a bit more rock & roll. Both versions did all right by Stieg Larsson’s novel. I’ll be interested to see if Fincher goes forward with the rest of the trilogy–Sony Pictures is, and Craig & Mara are signed. The Swedish version of “The Girl Who Played With Fire” bored the skitprat out of me. I’d love to see Fincher hit tape measure homeruns with his next two at-bats.

2009 Swedish version: A-
2011 English version: B+

About tom

B.A. in Literature, Minor in Film Theory and Criticism, thus meaning all I’m trained is to write blog posts here. Neptune is my favorite planet–it vents methane into the solar system like my brother does. I think Chicken McNuggets look like Pennsylvania, Illinois, and Indiana. There are times when I’m medicated, which is why I wrote about McNuggets. Buy some today and tell me I’m wrong! Anyway, Beyond that: mammal, Floridian, biped.Good Night, and Good Luck. Besos, tom
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5 Responses to The Girls With the Dragon Tattoos (2009, 2011) (warning: spoilers and 1.5 naked breasts below)

  1. Pingback: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo | Movie Reviews &Trailors

  2. Drude says:

    They’re just rerunning the tv-series Swedish version… I somehow managed to avoid them first time around but came across the rape scene yesterday and first time Micke and Lisbeth met ! I am still not sure I want to see the whole season. Think it’s time to read the books again.


    • tomzone says:

      The Fincher movie definitely toned down both the rape and revenge scenes. In the Swedish one, they were disturbing. Happy Spring, fair Drude. 🙂


  3. stevebetz says:

    Great on-point reviews of both. I thought they both did a good job of pairing down some of the excess plot lines of the book (each with a slightly different take). I thought Fincher was truer to the ending, which I liked. And I agree that the Swedish version was brutal in its violence — it’s hard to think of the American version as “sanitized”, but I suppose it applies.

    Completely agree on the creepiness of the Swedish Bjurmann.


    • tomzone says:

      The rape scene was longer and more horrific in the 2009 version, but the revenge scene…holy crap. Lisbeth ’09 got to dish out a lot more punishment, and both she & Bjurman ’09 really jacked up the squeamish factor.

      Honestly, though, I think I’m most disturbed that I didn’t portmanteau “Bondkvist” in my review. 😦


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