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Movie Review

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

MPAA Rating: R for brutal violent content including rape and torture, strong sexuality, graphic nudity, and language.

Reviewed by: Scott Brennan

Extremely Offensive
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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Crime Mystery Thriller Drama Adaptation Remake
2 hr. 28 min.
Year of Release:
USA Release:
December 21, 2011 (wide—2,800+ theaters)
DVD: March 20, 2012
Copyright, Columbia Pictures, Sony Pictures Entertainment click photos to ENLARGE Copyright, Columbia Pictures, Sony Pictures Entertainment Copyright, Columbia Pictures, Sony Pictures Entertainment Copyright, Columbia Pictures, Sony Pictures Entertainment Copyright, Columbia Pictures, Sony Pictures Entertainment Copyright, Columbia Pictures, Sony Pictures Entertainment Copyright, Columbia Pictures, Sony Pictures Entertainment Copyright, Columbia Pictures, Sony Pictures Entertainment Copyright, Columbia Pictures, Sony Pictures Entertainment Copyright, Columbia Pictures, Sony Pictures Entertainment Copyright, Columbia Pictures, Sony Pictures Entertainment
Relevant Issues
Copyright, Columbia Pictures, Sony Pictures Entertainment


fall of man

Did God make the world the way it is now? What kind of world would you create? Answer



rape victims’ stories

shame and rape

FILM VIOLENCE—How does viewing violence in movies affect families? Answer


prison and jail

antisocial personality disorder

disturbed childhood


disappearance of people

psychopath, sociopath


sadist, sadism




Featuring: Daniel CraigMikael Blomkvist
Rooney MaraLisbeth Salander
Robin Wright PennErika Berger
Stellan SkarsgårdMartin Vanger
Christopher PlummerHenrik Vanger
Joely Richardson … Anita Vanger
Embeth Davidtz … Annika Blomkvist
more »
Director: David Fincher
Producer: Columbia Pictures
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM)
Scott Rudin Productions
more »
Distributor: Columbia Pictures, Sony Pictures Entertainment

“What is hidden in snow comes forth in the thaw.”

WARNING! This movie should not be rated anything less than NC-17! It really should have XXX after the NC-17. If you are a parent reading this, I strongly suggest you speak with your children about NOT seeing this film. I, unfortunately, saw young teenagers sneak into the theater where I viewed this movie and complaints to the management accomplished little. Not only is there complete nudity during a brutal rape scene (rear only for the male), but it includes violence and torture and leaves nothing to the imagination, as the young woman is handcuffed face down to the bed as her perpetrator mumbles, “Oh I forgot to ask, I hope you like anal sex.” If that wasn’t enough, the retaliation that she delivers later in the film (“A Clockwork Orange” style) is equally as brutal, as she manages to taze the man repeatedly until she has him in similar position, with his mouth gagged, only face up on the bed. Once she inserts a large black dildo up his rectum, she proceeds to tattoo a self-incriminating statement on his chest and belly in large letters, as he screams in agony, while she whispers, “This is going to hurt.”

There are so many other things that are disturbing about this film, that it would take pages to write them all, but sufficient to say they are not good.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is the first book in the trilogy known as the “Millennium Series,” first published back in 2005 in Sweden by author Stieg Larsson, a year after his untimely death in 2004. I remember catching wind of this disturbing series, but paid little attention to it until I heard that was being published in English in 2008. If that wasn’t enough, it was released as a Danish/Swedish film in 2009 by the title “Män som hatar kvinnor,” which means “Men Who Hate Women,” and started to develop a following of fans.

Now it’s come to America with director David Fincher at the helm (“Fight Club”, “The Social Network”) and starring Daniel Craig, just in time for Christmas.

Full disclosure, I have not read the books (which were unpublished at the time of his death), nor have I seen the foreign film version—but I have read quite a bit about the author, and by the author in other publications in order to prepare for this review.

Stieg Larsson, was himself a magazine editor in Stockholm, just as Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) was in the film. In real life, Larsson witnessed the gang rape of a young girl when he was 15 and never forgave himself for failing to help her. Like the girl in “…Dragon Tattoo,” her name was Lisbeth—herself a rape victim in the film and the inspiration of the theme of sexual violence against women that appeared in his many articles, publications, and books—even prior to writing this trilogy.

Other European reviewers of Larsson have noted his repeated targets (as a political writer) which were—other than violence against women: 1) incompetence and cowardice of investigative journalists, 2) the moral bankruptcy of big capital, and 3) the alleged strain of Nazism he believed still simmered away in Swedish society just beneath the surface. All of these themes are present in this crime-mystery-thriller-film bound together in a complicated plot that covers at least two generations. In that plot, there is incest, murder, torture, rape, blackmail, adultery, violence, and every kind of evil imaginable.

Final Thoughts and most objectionable part of the film

Without going into details about Stieg Larsson’s family, political history, or relationships with friends, who were either communist/anarchists or other unsavory characters, what can be said is what is included in the storyline of this script. Without direct accusation, there is subtle inference that characterizes the history of abuse toward women as somehow an offshoot of the beliefs of individuals who view the Bible as the “Word of God.”

The entire unraveling of the mystery in this thriller is about some secret numbers which turn out to be chapter and verse references to texts in Leviticus—the end result being, God’s command that “they shall be put to death.” Begging the question, is maybe, if only we didn’t have these archaic religious relics of Scripture and such a stringent belief system in our society, then perhaps we could prevent the depravity of men from coming into existence at all? Included, also, in his writings are liberal notions about how much can be blamed on our upbringing or our society, as if to absolve the actions of every individual who cannot control their will like Lisabeth could/or couldn’t in the book.

The EMO girl, with the dragon tattoo, has the scent of the dragon written upon her heart, no thanks to the terrible life she must have endured as a child. But to give her license to exert her revenge on all who might get in her way, to the point that the audience roots for her success, is to give glory to the dragon himself. Isaiah 5:20 states,

“Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; Who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!

Violence: Extreme / Profanity: Extreme / Sex/Nudity: Extreme

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.

Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Comments below:
Positive—I am a huge fan of the original book, and was excited to see the movie, so I went today with one of my friends from school. We both enjoyed the movie and I found it to be very true to the book as well as to be a very well made movie. The characters drive the story, and they are brought to life well by the actors. The movie was very long, but it kept my attention throughout the whole thing. It is definitely not for the squeamish or faint of heart, but the reviewer’s assertion that it should be rated “XXX” is both grossly exaggerated and an insult to the film by branding it as pornography with no redeeming value.

The film does contain quite a few scenes of sexuality and sexual assault, but I don’t feel as if these elements were exploited. The nudity is brief with the exception of one scene, but I’ll get to that later. Also, considering the length of the film, the sexual and violent content is pretty well spread out so that it doesn’t feel overwhelming. The scenes of sexual assault are very uncomfortable and emotionally intense(as they should be in order to tell the story), but not overly explicit in the way that the reviewer would have you to believe.

As far as the 2 torture scenes go, well if you make it that far into the movie you probably won’t be offended by them. However, I did feel that ***spoiler*** the sex scene between Lisbeth and Blomvkist was over the top. As she climbs on top of him and the camera just lingers with no bed sheets covering them or anything, ***end spoiler*** I felt embarrassed and uncomfortable watching it. I looked away to see that my friend was doing the same, and didn’t look directly at the screen until it was over, so I can’t really say how explicit that scene was other than that it was “explicit enough.”

Also, when the reviewer calls the Bible verses used as the basis of killing “the most objectionable part,” I think they’re making some pretty big assumptions about the movie’s treatment of religion. The verses serve as just another link in the chain of clues, and the movie as a whole really has nothing to say about religion, one way or the other. Besides, real-life psychos use the Bible as the basis of their crimes all the time, so it’s not unrealistic.

I would recommend the film to (Mature) fans of the book, or just fans of mystery in general, but I would advise that they read a content review beforehand, because this is some rough stuff. I would also caution parents not to let their children go see it, unless they’re old enough to buy their own ticket, but even then, make sure they know what they’re in for.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Extremely Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Tyler, age 19 (USA)
Positive—…It is a mystery, a story of loyalty and friendship, revenge, and redemption. Yes, the film is gritty, but it is rarely gratuitous. The “questionable” scenes are there to bring the horrific realities of rape to the screen. Pardon the cliché, but if you can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen. Reality isn’t always pretty. Let’s not pretend otherwise. This is an R-rated film about our R-rated world. You shouldn’t expect anything more than that. This film definitely deserves the R rating attached to it. If R rated material—or reality or truth, in general—frightens you—please stay away.

PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE do not take children. If you do, you are an irresponsible parent. … The R rating should be enough warning for all of you.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Extremely Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 4
—Steven Adam Renkovish, age 29 (USA)
Positive—The filmmaking quality (with the exception of the self-indulgent, blaring titles) is excellent. While I disagree with the somewhat hysterical tone of the review, it is spot on in its description of the extreme nature of the objectionable content in the film. What I found most interesting about the film is the positive portrayal of the character of Blomkvist’s daughter—an unabashed Christian who prays before she eats. While Blomkvist loves his daughter, he is clearly made uncomfortable by her faith. She, to the best of my recollection, is the only completely pure character in the movie. This does not mean you should run out and see this movie—she is a minor character, and there are less scarring ways to be touched and inspired.

Roonie Mara’s Lisbeth was superior to Noomie Rapace’s interpretation, because she seems less tough and more vulnerable—the horrible things that happen to her are all the more horrible. Director Fincher (“Seven,” “Fight Club,” “Zodiac”) delivers yet another dark film that is simultaneously gritty and metallic.

I thought many times during the film about, as an adult male, I am safe from the depredations that are perpetrated against women and the existence of people who prey on the weak, often under a veneer of respectability (Lisbeth’s legal guardian who repeatedly assaults and humiliates her, wears a wedding ring and has a family picture on his desk). It is our duty as adults to protect the weak from these monsters and pray for them, as well.

The idea that forgiveness is extended to even these is a sobering one.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Extremely Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 4½
—Andrew, age 34 (USA)
Positive—…Surprise, a lot of stuff you see in movies apart from special effects, are born from the real world. If you live in a cave, then maybe some of this stuff surprises you… but if not, then open your eyes and your mind. This movie was top notch. The reason for a specific scene being shocking is to evoke emotion in the viewer. The producer wants you to get an idea what the characters are going through. Real life is not a Family Circus cartoon, thankfully.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Excellent! / Moviemaking quality: 4½
—Elder Whan, age 31 (USA)
Neutral—Extremely vulgar movie and definitely NOT for any Christians or under the age of 40, in my opinion. This is a movie that graphically depicts the R rated world we live in. People that are “in” the world but are not “of” the world and don’t want to know about it, should not see this movie. I agree that a rating of XXX is unnecessary, but, for movies such as this, a different category of R is needed. The language, violence and extremely offensive sexual scenes are just too much.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Extremely Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 4
—Dar, age 52 (USA)
Neutral—This movie was a disappointment, short and simple. The preview seems to promise a darkly intense and brooding thriller, but the film is little more than a run-of-the-mill mystery with only a couple shockingly intense scenes to break the monotony and confusion of the plot. I was hoping for misogyny to play a larger role in the story as a key theme, and I was hoping for the heroine to be equal parts hero and villain. That only really comes out in one scene, when she tortures her rapist guardian. The scene where Lisbeth is raped, and the scene in which she extracts her revenge are the only two scenes that pull any punches (graphically so), but the rest of the movie seems like a cold, soulless, and emotionless mess. Albeit, it was a beautiful mess with some spectacular cinematography and some wonderful performances, especially Rooney Mara. The movie is most disappointing, not because it is a poor movie (which it isn’t), but because it could have been so much better.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Very Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 3
—Joseph Hughey, age 19 (USA)
Negative—I have never been so embarrassed taking friends to see a movie. There is a brutal rape scene and several nude sexual scenes. This movie could have been really good, if they had taken out those scenes. …(
My Ratings: Moral rating: Extremely Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 4
—Tina, age 49 (USA)
Negative—I made the mistake about not getting information on this movie. EXTREMELY GRAPHIC. I do not recommend any Christian go see this movie. No redeeming qualities, at all. I almost threw up…
My Ratings: Moral rating: Extremely Offensive / Moviemaking quality: none
—Roy Hobbs, age 50 (USA)
Negative—I would not recommend viewing this movie, if you have not read the books or any reviews. As someone who was dragged to see this movie, it took me at least half the movie to take any interest in either storyline. Although it’s a mystery, I had trouble seeing the clues or that they had any connection to the mystery at hand.

As for both rape scenes, they are way too graphic. I don’t particularly mind rape being a part of the story, but if I know it’s happening I don’t have to see it up close. I understand that those events had to happen, but while they were happening I longed for a scene change. Those scenes were highly uncomfortable, and Lisbeth’s revenge scene is almost worse. Lisbeth does the same thing to her attacker, and so much more, and we—the audience—are supposed to cheer. Whether or not he deserved it is irrelevant—a follower of Christ should never cheer for anything like that, and it deeply disturbed my soul that so many people did. And yet, when a cat is killed, mutilated, and shaped into a swastika later in the movie, the audience was horrified.

Of course, it was horrific, but have we fallen so far that something like that is worse than torturing our fellow man? As for the sex scenes later, they were graphic but not nearly as bad as the rape scenes, if only because no one was screaming for mercy…

All in all, I don’t recommend this movie, if only for those scenes. I don’t think anyone who truly cares about what they allow themselves to see should subject themselves to this.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Extremely Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 4½
—Amanda V., age 20 (USA)
Negative—graphic nudity, graphic sex, and graphic torture
My Ratings: Moral rating: Very Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 4
—Brad, age 47 (USA)