Alfredson has slightly redeemed himself (and screenwriter Jonas Frykberg) with the third and final installment, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest.
Director Daniel Alfredson did to the second installment of the Millennium trilogy, The Girl Who Played with Fire, the same thing that Francis Ford Coppola did to the Godfather trilogy with Godfather Part Three. The first film, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, directed by Niels Arden Oplev, was a wonderful thriller that stayed true to the spirit of author Stieg Larsson’s novel. When Alfredson took over directing the second film, the result was a jumbled, unfocused mess that felt like a 1980s TV movie of the week.
However, Alfredson has slightly redeemed himself (and screenwriter Jonas Frykberg) with the third and final installment, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest. The film feels true to Larsson’s emotional core and is filled with terrific revelations and moments of sheer surprise. What Alfredson was lacking in Fire he finally discovers in Hornet’s Nest.
The film is engaging from its first moments, when Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace) is lifted to a Swedish city hospital after being shot in the head. The action picks up minutes after where the last film dropped off, and Lisbeth is held prisoner inside her body for most of the first half of the film while she tries to recuperate from the terrible violence she endured. Knowing that she will be transported back to Stockholm to stand trial for three murders when she recovers, Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist) attempts to expose the truth about Lisbeth and prove her innocence.
The film’s plot focuses on Blomkvist’s attempts to set Lisbeth free and Lisbeth herself refusing to capitulate to a mockery of a legal proceeding. Really, though, it is about the power of the written word when used for good, and the advantage journalists can hold over any form of government when they make a sincere effort. Blomkvist clearly loves Lisbeth and wants her real story to be told, not the story that is perpetuated by her sadistic rapist of a former doctor, Peter Teleborian (Anders Ahlbom).
As he digs deeper into Lisbeth’s past and the events that took place at the mental hospital where she was held hostage, Blomkvist puts himself and his co-workers in danger as he works to publish an issue of Millennium detailing Lisbeth’s story before she goes on trial. Alfredson does a superb job intercutting Blomkvist’s desperate, and seemingly futile, attempt at justice with scenes of Lisbeth as she lies in a hospital bed or prison cell, practically cut off from all forms of communication.
Rapace is given much more to work with in Hornet’s Nest than she was in Fire. The climax of the film comes as Lisbeth stands trial and is forced to listen to lies and false accusations about herself. Rapace’s restraint is fantastic—we can see Lisbeth has utter rage bubbling just below the surface, but that she knows an outburst will not win her freedom. Instead, Rapace focuses a cold, dead stare that would make any person shiver and shrink in their chair on those conspiring against her.
Alfredson and Frykberg create the type of suspense Larsson so expertly built in his novels. The film is confusing at times, especially in the beginning where a whole new cast of characters is introduced in rapid succession, but Alfredson slows the pace just enough to allow the audience to understand each player and their relations to one another. Though Hornet’s Nest is still not the masterful work that Dragon Tattoo was, it’s competent and compelling. It is the second best film in the trilogy and light years ahead of The Girl Who Played with Fire. | Matthew F. Newlin