For The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo director David Fincher and screenwriter Steven Zallion give the story, which is familiar to either readers of the novel or viewers of the original Swedish (2009) film, a few twists and tweaks that propel the tale to a new level of excitement. The film looks sleek and makes its steel blue and green lighting essential to the mystery. Leads Daniel Craig (Mikael Blomkvist) and Rooney Mara (Lisbeth Salander) play well off each other with Lisbeth dominating Blomkvist in more than one way.

While the main gist of Dragon Tattoo remains there are differences in the two films. To wit, Fincher mixes it up as far as the penultimate moment, and then the climax, the one that reveals what happened to Harriet Vanger, the mystery that propels the whole dang thing, unfolds differently. Fincher also adds the relationship between Blomkvist and his editor (Robin Wright), a cat and wisely subtracts other details like Blomkvist having visited the Vanger estate as a child. Also when Fincher adds something it results in a payoff. Other cast members include Christopher Plummer, Stellan Skarsgard and Joely Richardson.

Lest I forget, the original film was foreign and had a limited (though quite successful for a foreign film) domestic release so while it has adamant fans they’re not legion. In fact one of the fun things about Dragon Tattoo is turning on the uninitiated masses to the phenom.

Fincher starts in a manner that suggests his guiding hand, in other words a single rock song mixed in with the soundtrack (usually at the end of his films, here at the beginning). Think of the use of The Beatles “Baby You’re A Rich Man” in The Social Network and how it meshes with Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’s soundtrack. Here Reznor and Ross returns with another evocative score that’s preceded by the use of Led Zepplin’s “Immigrant Song” as imagined by Reznor and Karen O. Appropriate song as it conjures the setting. “We come from the land of the ice and snow.”

A stunning opening credits sequences cements the film’s visual motifs, the man, the woman, tires; dripping fluid rendered midnight blue that roars in waves over these images. Filmgoers not familiar with the story should know that Dragon Tattoo deals with a series of serial murders and contains two brutal rape scenes.

— Michael Bergeron