The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo - Daniel Craig & Mara Rooney

With Fight Club director David Fincher at the helm, it was clear that Hollywood wasn’t going to pull any punches in bringing Stieg Larsson’s bestselling crime thriller The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo to the screen.

Sure enough, Fincher’s film is dark and twisted, bleak and brutal: everything the book’s fans would want. And it’s not just the story’s mood that’s right. The casting is spot on, too.

Rooney Mara doesn’t eclipse Noomi Rapace’s iconic performance as punk-Goth computer hacker Lisbeth Salander in the original Swedish film, but she nails the character’s spiky complexity. Her tiny frame adorned with multiple tattoos and piercings, Mara’s emotionally damaged Salander is both vulnerable waif and ferocious avenger.

Co-star Daniel Craig, as crusading journalist Mikael Blomkvist, proves a worthy foil, with enough brooding masculine charisma to make up for the fact that he alone among the cast doesn’t attempt a Swedish accent.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo - Daniel Craig as Mikael Blomkvist

To begin with, the film keeps the pair apart as it establishes their characters and sets up the story’s labyrinthine plot, which revolves around the 40-year-old disappearance of a teenage girl from an island owned by a wealthy, seriously warped Swedish family.

Blomkvist, in disgrace after losing a libel case, gets hired to solve the mystery by the girl’s great-uncle, elderly recluse Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plummer), and he in turn hires antisocial genius Salander to assist him.

As compelling as Salander and Blomkvist are on their own, it’s when they come together that The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo truly takes off.  And as they begin unravelling a skein of seemingly baffling clues, chillingly exposing a series of appalling crimes against women, the film becomes as gripping on screen as it was on the page.

On general release from Friday 26th December 2011.