Daniel Alfredson's The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets' Nest
Here's the link to the published version of my review in my column at The Richmond Examiner:
The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets' Nest (2010)
The "Millennium Trilogy" comes to its exciting conclusion in this adaptation of the third novel, "The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets' Nest." For those who have been following these films, we seen the characters going through some thrilling adventures starting with an investigation into the disappearance of a young woman and continuing with a mystery regarding false murder charges. However, this third film changes things up a bit. It's not so much a mystery as it is the final effort of our heroes to right the wrongs of the past.
"Hornets' Nest" picks up right where "The Girl Who Played with Fire" left off. Lisbeth (Noomi Rapace) has been taken to a hospital where she is to get better before being taken to jail and put on trial for the attempted murder of her father, Alexander Zalachenko (Georgi Staykov). If convicted, her most likely punishment is to be placed back into a mental hospital under the watch of her old doctor, Peter Teleborian (Anders Ahlbom).
Meanwhile, Mikael (Michael Nyqvist) continues his investigation in an attempt to prove her innocence. He, his colleagues at the paper, and some special investigators help track down members of a secret section of the police that is originally responsible for having Lisbeth committed to a mental hospital, and who are trying to do it again.
You may recall in the second film that we learned of how Lisbeth did indeed try to burn her father alive due to his mistreatment of her mother. We also learned that Zalachenko was a Russian spy who defected to Sweden. In this film, we learn that that secret group within the police, known as "The Section," protected Zalachenko, and are now trying to discredit Lisbeth in an attempt to cover up the truth.
I had mentioned in my review for the previous installment that the first two films had taken different approaches to the plot. The first film had a straightforward mystery with an easy to follow progression of clues while the second film mixed things up a little by making it a little harder to follow. This third film mixes things up again by not really having much of a mystery to it. It's more accurate to say that the mystery is already solved with the facts being know, but the evidence still needs to be collected to prove it.
This film ends up being more of a courtroom drama, and yet it's almost as equally thrilling as the first film in the series. There is a lot of tension built up during the trial as Teleborian, a member of "The Section," tries to convince the court that Lisbeth has a problem separating reality from fantasy, particularly in regards to her claims that her former guardian, Bjurman, raped her.
It becomes a back and forth game of allegations and accusations as Lisbeth and her lawyer attempt to prove that Teleborian is lying. It all comes down to who is able to prove their version of the story. This is where Mikael comes in. Working with his colleagues, he digs deeper into the past surrounding Zalachenko and the secret policemen who protected him, and in the process, we go even deeper into Lisbeth's past, providing even more insight as to how she became the woman she is presently.
One curious thing about the film, and something that I don't suppose could have been avoided at this point in the story, was how Lisbeth gets somewhat sidelined for the first two acts. Her scenes are mainly reduced to sitting around in her hospital room and eventually a jail cell until her trial. During her stay in the hospital, she types up her autobiography in an effort to tell her side of the story, but doesn't have much in the way of dialogue. Luckily, Rapace once again gets her chance to shine in the courtroom scenes, particularly when she is giving her stern, strict answers to the prosecutor’s questions. You can quite literally hear the pain, frustration, and anger that have been bottled up over the years pouring out through her voice as she speaks.
Overall, this trilogy has been a complete surprise. These films came out of nowhere and offered up some engaging mysteries as well as a powerful conclusion to the story. The conclusion has all the more impact because, by this point, we have spent a lot of time with these characters and have gotten to know them quite well. We know all about Lisbeth's past and how she has been mistreated all her life, and we know about Mikael's pursuit of truth and justice, not only from his work at a newspaper that delves into the harder issues, but from an unlikely friendship formed with a reclusive girl while trying to set things right. During their time together, a bond was created. One that will most likely last until the end of their lives. 3.5/4 stars.
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