It becomes apparent early on in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.  David Fincher was a perfect fit for this project.  The acclaimed director has
been successful in helming films that range from Oscar fare (The Social Network, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button) to more popular
entertainment such as Fight Club or Seven.

Dragon Tattoo is a great combination of both sides.  A film that adapts its source material (Stieg Larsson’s Swedish-language novel) so well
it doesn’t feel like an adaptation while maintaining the uniqueness and edge that made the book a literary blockbuster.

Larsson’s novel is good mystery fare, but what makes The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo work so well are its characters and a couple of
excellent performances by the superbly cast leads.

Daniel Craig is disgraced journalist Mikael Blomkvist.  Craig is almost unmatched in his ability to play an ultra-cool, likable lead while still
maintaining vulnerability and a dramatic edge. Blomkvist is all of the above and Craig gives an almost transparently good performance as
the anchor in this story.

While investigating the murder of a girl from 40 years prior, Blomkvist eventually teams up with investigator Lisbeth Salander, an unstable
20-something punk whose life seems to be in a never-ending downward spiral.  Salander finds herself in all manner of disturbing situations
and credit must be given to actress Rooney Mara for taking on this brutally disturbing role.  Fincher doesn’t pull any punches and Mara is
utterly committed to this film.

Despite her deviant tendencies and complete lack of social skills, Mara plays Salander with a raw honesty that almost becomes bizarrely
endearing, especially when combined with Craig’s Blomkvist.

Fincher’s seamless direction gives Dragon Tattoo a great pace and when Blomkvist and Salander stories finally meet, the film becomes
quite captivating.  There is an unlikely chemistry between the two characters that feels very fresh and original.  This is as much to do with
the daring and unique Salander as much as anything.  Her horrible past haunts nearly every moment of her life and the story is very
intelligently written regarding the effects of childhood abuse and trauma.  We rarely see this sort of brutal honesty in major studio releases.

Fincher also establishes an enthralling, frigid atmosphere through the snowy landscape of Sweden and the moody cinematography of Jeff
Cronenweth.

The only real misstep occurs in the final act when Fincher and screenwriter Steven Zaillian stretch the film just a bit too long in trying to
wrap up Lundkvist’s journalism subplot.  It feels unnecessary and a bit superfluous given everything that has occurred during the first two-
plus hours of the film.

Luckily the film’s final scene is a wonderfully atypical, un-Hollywood ending that stays true to its characters at the expense of the feel-good
ending.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is an utter success.  It’s a film that takes good source material and fully realizes its unique characters and
brutal edginess for the screen.  Fincher’s stylish direction along with a superb cast and Zaillian’s adaptation work combine to form a top-tier
mystery that comes very close to standing among the best this genre has to offer.

* * * ½
(out of four)
THE GIRL WITH THE
DRAGON TATTOO

Directed by: David Fincher

Written by: Steven Zaillian

Starring: Daniel Craig, Rooney Mara, Christopher
Plummer, Stellan Skarsgard, Steven Berkoff

Music by: Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross

Cinematography by: Jeff Cronenweth

Released: December 20, 2011; 158 Minutes