A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is the English-language remake of the Swedish hit from 2009, which like this film, was also based on the best-selling Stieg Larsson novel. Like the previous versions of the story, it has very strong violence, including horrifying rape scenes, torture, and highly disturbing crime scene photos. There's also a mangled dead cat, guns and shooting, blood, and fighting. Sexual content is also strong, including full-frontal female nudity, seduction, and sex scenes. Language isn't constant but is strong ("f--k" and more). Both main characters smoke cigarettes, and the male lead drinks regularly (in a social context). This is a high-profile movie from well-regarded director David Fincher (Fight Club, The Social Network, etc.), but it's not age-appropriate for any but the most mature viewers.
What's the story?
After losing a libel suit, journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) is invited to meet retired tycoon Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plummer). Under the guise of writing a memoir, Vanger hires Mikael to find out what happened to his niece, who mysteriously disappeared many decades earlier. Meanwhile, a troubled, asocial young computer hacker, Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara), who supplied information on Mikael for the libel case, has been dealing with problems of her own. Mikael discovers her identity and tracks her down, and the two take a liking to each other. They form an unlikely team in the search for the missing girl -- but little do they know that their search will uncover a series of murders leading back 40 years.
Is it any good?
THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO is little more than good pulp that's wrapped up in history, the Holocaust, and Nazism to give it depth and presented in a 158-minute package to give it weight. Fortunately, director David Fincher is highly skilled at this kind of thing, having turned in the similar films Seven (1995) and Zodiac (2007). His chilly, precise filmmaking knows how to tease while still looking head-on into a dark, bloody abyss.
Fincher takes time to build the mystery slowly, showing the numbing amounts of research as well as details like freezing-cold cabins and bad vending machine coffee. Every bit of excitement here is mirrored by something either mundane or rotten. (This isn't a glamorous mystery.) For the English-language remake -- which uses all the same character names and locations as the original -- superb casting choices were made all the way down the line, with Craig and Mara superbly commanding the screen.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo's extreme violence. How much of it is actually necessary to tell this type of story? Would the film have as much impact without it?
How does the movie portray sex? Are the consequences for the characters' decisions regarding sex realistic? Parents, talk to your teens about your own values relating to sex and relationships.
Are these characters compelling, despite their questionable behavior? If so, why? Are they heroes? Are they role models?
How does the English-language version differ from the Swedish version? Did this version need to be made?
- In theaters: December 20, 2011
- On DVD or streaming: March 20, 2012
- Cast: Christopher Plummer, Daniel Craig, Rooney Mara
- Director: David Fincher
- Studios: Columbia Pictures, Sony Pictures
- Genre: Thriller
- Run time: 158 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: brutal violent content including rape and torture, strong sexuality, graphic nudity, and language
For kids who love thrills
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.