Like 'The Da Vinci Code', 'Angels and Demons' and the 'Twilight' series, the cover of author Stieg Larsson's 'The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo' and its two sequels have become a sort of public wallpaper. Jump on a bus or train or sit in an airport and there's bound to be someone with their head buried in an adventure involving crusading journalist Mikael Blomkvist and troubled genius hacker Lisabeth Salander. Now, after massive success in mainland Europe, the first Swedish movie of the late writer's trilogy arrives on Irish screens.

Having lost a libel trial involving one of Sweden's biggest industrialists, Mikael Blomkvist (Nyqvist), the editor of the investigative magazine Millennium, is sentenced to three months in prison.

While Blomkvist's professional reputation is in shreds, a very wealthy man is very interested in hiring him. Henrik Vanger (Taube) is from one of Sweden's 'old money' families and has been haunted by a mystery for the past 36 years.

In 1966, during a family gathering on their island homestead, Vanger's niece Harriet disappeared. A huge police investigation failed to find the girl, and Vanger is convinced that she was murdered.

Vanger's theory is based on the fact that for the past 35 years on his birthday he has been sent a framed flower like the type Harriet used to give him. Now in his 80s, Vanger wants someone to crack the case before he dies, and after checking his background with a security firm, thinks Blomkvist is the best person for the job. The writer initially disagrees but short on money and intrigued by the story, he decides to become Vanger's neighbour and sift through all the old man's information on Harriet's disappearance.

Days becomes weeks become months as Blomkvist goes through another box of files from the Vanger collection, unaware that he is being watched by two people: Lisabeth Salander (Rapace), the hacker who conducted the security check on him, and someone else with far more sinister intentions.

If you've already read 'The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo' you'll be very jealous of those in the cinema who don't know what's going to happen next. This is a classy and compelling thriller that, from performances to look and feel, does justice to the source material.

At two hours, 32 minutes, 'The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo' is a long film, but it's testament to Oplev's skills as a director that it never feels like one. He moves the 'did-someone-do-it?' along at a cracking pace and while parts of the story have been condensed, like Steven Soderbergh's 'Out of Sight', David Fincher's 'Fight Club' or The Coen brothers' take on 'No Country for Old Men', you can't see many fans of the book finding fault with his vision.

Read an interview with director Niels Arden Oplev.

One of Sweden's best-known actors, Nyqvist is very good in the role of Blomkvist, but Rapace's performance as Salander is star-making. She brilliantly brings the character to life and the excitement of knowing that there are another two films to come grows with every scene. You'll never read or re-read the book without thinking of her looking up with black eyes from below that fringe.

Plans are moving ahead for US versions of Larsson's three books, but you can't see them improving on what Oplev and his cast and crew have come up with here. Their work is a fitting tribute, and you'd like to think that he'd enjoy what they've done as much as any of the punters.

Harry Guerin