Us Rating: *** 1/2
"She's different in every way," explains Lisbeth Salander's employer as she darts into a meeting. That's an understatement. The brazenly bisexual, leather-clad, withdrawn title heroine -- brilliantly played by Rooney Mara in the breakout performance of the year -- is the mesmerizing center of this macabre thriller. Lisbeth, a 24-year-old orphan and assault victim, thrives in a self-insulated den of computer hacking. Her life gets shaken up when she's hired by a disgraced journalist (Daniel Craig, wisely muted) to help with an assignment: Investigate the 1966 disappearance of a wealthy businessman's niece.
As clues fall into place, director David Fincher turns a humdrum mystery (based on the bestseller) into a series of briskly paced jaw-droppers punctuated by extreme violence (beware the tattoo gun!). Even Lisbeth's microfiche session at a library brims with suspense, and the use of an ethereal Enya song to contrast a torture scene is an inspired touch. If only the adaptation didn't adhere so closely to the book's extended coda about Lisbeth's fieldwork; its an anticlimactic, warmed-over afterthought following two-plus hours of breathtaking chill.