Fincher spot on with ‘Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’ adaptation

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Fincher spot on with ‘Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’ adaptation

Hollywood has commandeered Sweden’s big literary export, “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” without compromising the story’s Scandinavian roots or its top-of-the-world, Seasonal Affective Disorder sense of barrenness, even hopelessness.

It could have been transplanted stateside for American audiences, but thankfully, what happens in Sweden stays in Sweden in David Fincher’s stark but enthralling adaptation of the first novel in late author Stig Larsson’s trilogy.

Its harsh emotional terrain, where cruelty flourishes and compassion suffocates, could have wound up softened and sweetened, yet this was an ideal match of filmmaker and material.

Fincher’s one of the least sentimental directors in Hollywood. If anything, his “Dragon Tattoo” is even bleaker than the 2009 Swedish-language hit.

Those preliminaries aside, here’s the really good news: this movie kicks ass. Rooney Mara, who had a small role in Fincher’s “The Social Network,” gives a controlled detonation of a performance as traumatized victim-turned-avenger Lisbeth Salander. Mara’s the breakout star of the year, a cold, detached waif in form, a fearsome, merciless zealot in spirit.

How strange it is to say that the nice guy here is Daniel Craig - who, of all the big-screen James Bonds, comes closest to the nasty, tortured soul Ian Fleming created.

Mara and Craig make an indomitable screen pair, he nominally leading their intense search into decades-old serial killings, she surging ahead, plowing through obstacles with flashes of phenomenal intellect and eruptions of physical fury.

A ward of the state since an act of childhood violence, Lisbeth has been at the mercy, and mostly the malice, of others for so long that she anticipates and incorporates their brutality into her own calculations for maintaining control of her life.

The film is gripping early on, when Lisbeth and disgraced journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Craig) are on their own.

Once they team up, “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” takes on a relentless though unhurried momentum as the two find links between the girl’s disappearance and a series of murders of young women butchered in unspeakable ways.

This is a team that deserves an encore, and Larsson left behind two more novels loaded with more dark doings for Lisbeth and Mikael. We haven’t seen the last of this tattooed girl.

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