Adapting a book for the big screen is always a tricky proposition. After all, those who read it will have formed a vivid picture in their minds of both character and plot before they get near a bag of popcorn. In this regard, David Fincher had a particularly tricky proposition. Not only was he adapting a wildly popular and successful novel in Stieg Larsson's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo; he was following in the footsteps of a critically acclaimed movie adaptation of the novel in its native Swedish.

Like any movie, however, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo deserves to be judged on its own merits and David Fincher's drama has plenty of merit. Firstly, the story of a disgraced journalist who hooks up with a tearaway computer hacker to solve an age-old family riddle is a compelling one. Daniel Craig is well cast as the journalist in question, a man who finds himself caught up in a web of deceit, bitterness and violence when he accepts an assignment from patriarch Christopher Plummer (also very good) to investigate the murder, decades earlier, of his great-niece.

Though the story revolves around Craig's journalist, the eye-catching role is that of computer hacker Lisbeth Salander. Noomi Rapace delivered a tour-de-force performance in the Swedish version of the story. For the US version (thankfully filmed in Sweden), Fincher has cast Rooney Mara; the actress who delivered such a telling performance (however brief) as Jesse Eisenberg's gal pal in the diretor's previous drama, The Social Network. Not that you'd recognise her, of course. Fincher put his leading lady through hoops during the audition process and she arrived on set complete with piercings, tattoos, bleached eybrows and a semi-shaved head. Those familiar with the story will also know that Salander's character is put through the ringer in the course of the film itself, and Mara steps up to the plate with a fearless performance.

Elsewhere there are strong supporting turns from the likes of Plummer, Robin Wright, Yorick van Waginengen and Stellan Skarsgard (a Swedish actor playing a Swedish guy but talking in broken English; interesting), all of whom do justice to Steven Zaillian's sharp script. Kudos, too, for cinematographer Jeff Cronenweth and Trent Reznor's score.

The Girl with The Dragon Tattoo offers some tough scenes (it earns its 18s rating) which makes it an unusual Festive option, but it's a rewarding thriller that consolidates Fincher's reputation behind the camera and helps build that of Rooney Mara in front of the lens.

Incidentally, watch out for the impressive opening sequence: Fincher making a play for a future Bond movie, perhaps?