Thursday, 2 December 2010

The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest (2009)

The girl who’ll be a tough act to follow.

Image: Momentum Pictures

This review should be prefaced with a spoiler warning for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and The Girl Who Played with Fire. I should also tell you that it is inadvisable to see Hornet’s Nest without having watched those two films. There’s some recapped information dotted around the first act, but the film assumes that you’re not just wandering in to see what the fuss is about.

Picking up immediately after the end of Fire, the film starts with Lisbeth Salander in hospital, badly beaten and with a bullet in her skull, awaiting trial for the attempted murder of her monstrous, abusive father who turned out to be a defected Soviet spy. Shady government figures are anxious to silence the both of them and are working to get Lisbeth committed for life. Her only hope is journalist Mikael Blomqvist, who continues his quest to find out the truth about her past.

I was a big fan of the first film, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, but found that The Girl Who Played with Fire was disappointing. Each instalment riffs on different genres, with Tattoo cribbing from gothic horror before Fire took an ill-advised turn into action-thriller territory. Hornet’s Nest is a John Grisham-like courtroom thriller that manages the John Le Carré spy stuff a lot more gracefully than its predecessor. Both parts 2 and 3 were directed by Daniel Alfredson, so it’s a pleasant surprise that part 3 is much steadier on its feet.

There are still some of the less plausible elements knocking around. Lisbeth’s badly burned ex-spy father is still alive, as is her silent, half-brother who’s immune to pain. However, all these parts are placed more carefully in the tense, gripping storyline that comes to a solid resolution. There is still some action dotted throughout the narrative, but it’s a lot more convincing than it was previously.

It almost goes without saying at this point that the performances are excellent, but as this is the final instalment, we should acknowledge their terrific work. Noomi Rapace is superb as Lisbeth. Superficially she has a lot less to do, but her damaged anti-heroine is mesmerising in her stillness. Michael Nyqvist (Blomqvist) suffered from diminished screen time in Fire but enjoys taking the lead here. He’s capably backed by Lena Endre as his editor and lover Erika, and Annika Hallin as his lawyer sister Annika, who agrees to represent Lisbeth. Continuing the series’ theme of men who hate women, Hornet’s Nest gives us Lisbeth’s childhood doctor, Peter Teleborian. Anders Ahlbom Rosendahl makes the character so supremely hateful that you wonder how any court could possibly believe that he would ever have anyone’s best interest at heart.

It’s certainly a commitment at two and a half hours, and doesn’t match the heights of part 1, but audiences who were unhappy with part 2 should be satisfied with this final chapter. To be brutally honest, Fincher may be able to make a film that looks better and he’ll probably pace it better too. However, Nyqvist and, of course, Rapace have made sure that Daniel Craig and especially Rooney Mara have their work cut out for them.

It’s a good finale and gives us the answers we’ve been waiting for. And, as always, Noomi Rapace is phenomenal.



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