Review: The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest (Luftslottet som sprängdes) (2009)

Director: Daniel Alfredson

****

[WARNING: POTENTIAL SPOILERS AHEAD]

imageSo many final chapters in trilogies promise that “all will be revealed”. The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest reveals plenty, filling in a few gaps and tying plot elements of the preceding films in Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy quite neatly together. However, the character of Lisbeth Salander is too enigmatic and fascinating a heroine to reduce to such marketing-friendly platitudes. Noomi Rapace’s performance as Salander has been the heart and soul of these films, and her performance here confirms her as a major talent of note. Hornet’s Nest opens with Lisbeth on a hospital bed, badly injured after her confrontation with her father Zalachenko (Georgi Staykov), who’s also badly injured. The melée in which they sustained their injuries closed The Girl Who Played With Fire, a disappointing follow-up to the intrigue and excitement of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. However, director Daniel Alfredson eschews his sleazier and commercial sensibilities and seizes the chance to work with a bulkier script, incorporating political intrigue, Communist defectors and a more vulnerable Lisbeth than we’ve seen before.

The badly beaten Lisbeth is charged with her father’s attempted murder, and her good friend Mikael Blomqvist (Michael Nyqvist) is determined to prove her innocence with a special issue of his ‘Millennium’ magazine whilst she recuperates in hospital. However, when Zalachenko is murdered in his hospital bed, Lisbeth has to be put under heavy security and Blomqvist has to speed up his research as Lisbeth’s trial draws near. The pressure is captured by Alfredson’s direction; there’s less action than in Fire, but it’s punchier and more convincing, whilst Nyqvist has a bit more to do than spout exposition this time. More than that, a real sense of jeopardy is palpable this time; Lisbeth’s Soviet spy father was mired in a covert Communist faction, and she knows too much. The personal and the public become intertwined to create convincing drama; Blomqvist’s sister (Annika Hallin) is Lisbeth’s defence lawyer, whilst Lisbeth’s suspect childhood psychiatrist Teleborn (Anders Albohm) is presenting evidence for the prosecution. Ulf Ryberg’s adaptation of Larsson’s book is peppered with tense scenes and dialogue, not least in the final act which centres on Lisbeth’s trial. The courtroom scenes are amongst the most riveting in the trilogy. Watching Rapace in these scenes is like watching a snake coiled in a corner; she’s calm, but you sense she could lash out at any moment.

It all still smacks of TV serial in its appearance, but most every problem in The Girl Who Played With Fire is addressed here (even though the Bond-style blond goon (Mikael Spreitz) is still here, but his onscreen time is brief). Both director and audience know this is the last chapter (this film really requires viewing of the previous installments), and the excitement and flair is cranked up terrifically. The Millennium Trilogy may eventually be an old-fashioned potboiler in new clothes, but the intention of the filmmakers is to do justice to the characters, especially Lisbeth. Even if the ending is a touch anti-climactic, the journey there has been a fascinating one and we’ve been guided by a truly unique lady.  Noomi Rapace will be better known in time but she started here as she means to go on, with passion and presence. Fincher, it’s over to you.

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