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Monday, November 1, 2010

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

* * *

Director: Daniel Alfredson
Starring: Noomi Rapace, Mikael Nyqvist

It's over! The first round of films based on Stieg Larsson's Millennium series comes to an end, which means it's time to say goodbye to Noomi Rapace's version of Lisbeth Salander. All in all, I think The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest is a decent end to the series, not really in the same league as The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo but an improvement over The Girl Who Played With Fire.

This one picks up where the last left off, with Lisbeth (Rapace) and Zalachenko (Georgi Staykov) being rushed to the hospital to treat the critical injuries they've sustained at each other's hands. Lisbeth is quickly charged with attempted murder and The Section, the secret government agency that has been working with Zalachenko since his defection from the Soviet Union, works to cover his tracks and keep their existence under wraps. Zalachenko is less than willing to cooperate, however, which quickly leads to his death and an attempt to kill Lisbeth. Failing this attempt, The Section's plan is to have Lisbeth committed and placed in the "care" of Dr. Telleborian (Anders Ahlbom), her childhood psychiatrist, and discredit and/or kill Mikael Blomkvist (Mikael Nyqvist) in order to keep him from revealing all their secrets.

Mikael's plan is, of course, to blow The Section out of the water and reveal the extent to which Lisbeth has been victimized by the state. He has plenty of documents, obtained through Lisbeth and one of her hacker pals, and enlists his sister, Annika (Annika Hallin), to represent Lisbeth at her trial. His persistence on Libseth's behalf makes him a target, but also makes the other members of the Millennium staff targets and his tunnel vision ultimately leads to issues with his business partner and sometime lover Erika (Lena Endre), who begins to believe that he doesn't care who gets hurt as long as he can vindicate Lisbeth. You can see her point but, at the same time, you can understand where Mikael's coming from given that Lisbeth is the kind of character who would rather to suffer the worst of consequences than go to the trouble of helping anyone to help her. The story's primary concern is with giving the bad guys their comeupance, but it is also about Lisbeth, so damaged and bitter, learning how to trust people.

Like its immediate predecessor, The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest doesn't have the ambition of the first film or the book series, but I found that less problematic here than I did in The Girl Who Played With Fire. I think this is partly because Hornet's Nest was my least favourite of the books, and therefore I wasn't expecting too much from the film version, and also because this film isn't as violent as the other two. Part of the problem I had with the second film is that I felt it removed the violence from its context, reducing the events to violence for the sake of violence. Hornet's Nest doesn't have that problem, which is very much to its credit.

The screenplay by Ulf Ryberg trims a lot of fat from the novel, allowing for the film to unfold at a quick and engaging pace. This particular part of the trilogy has an uphill battle from the outset simply because its most dynamic element, Lisbeth, is out of commission and relegated to the sidelines for much of the plot. Ryberg and director Daniel Alfredson manage to put the pieces together in such a way that Lisbeth's absence isn't so glaring and they give Rapace enough to work with that it doesn't feel like the film is wasting her presence.

The film ends on a quiet note - a scene between Lisbeth and Mikael that acknowledges their complicated history and suggests a possible future - that brings a sense of relief to the viewer. After everything the characters have been through over the course of three films, it's nice to think that they may finally get to know the joy of an uneventful weekend at home.


Shubhajit said...

Well, I too had loved the first movie in the series, and was highly disappointed with the sequel. In fact the second film had greatly reduced my willingness to watch the third film in the series. Great to know that the finale is better than the second film, and that means I can once again look forward to watching it :)

Norma Desmond said...

I know how you feel regarding the effect of the second film. The third film is an improvement though.

Brent said...

Interestingly people who have read the book say the second one isn't worth reading. The second film is getting the same reaction.
It is a trilogy and the second book leads out of the second and into the third (obviously). It develops Salander more as a character and I don't think this could have been done in just two books.
I think alot of people are viewing each movie of the series as stand alone films and I think this is a mistake. They tie into each other and must be viewed as a whole rather than as individual films on their own.
I just don't think that they should be viewed as sequels because they follow each other so closely in time frame. Each book was not set many years apart but by a matter of weeks.
Having read the third book I don't think it would have made much sense without having read the second. The films have had to reduce much of the sub-plots to give them a watchable length.
The Lord of the Rings is a trilogy. Would it have worked if the second book and fil had not been written/made?