Music Box Films // 2009 // 147 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Daryl Loomis (Retired) // January 24th, 2011
They'll lock her away again, and I won't be able to do a damn thing.
The final installment in Stieg Larsson's Millenium trilogy is not the thrill ride of its predecessors, but the film doesn't need it. The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest is a culmination of all those past events wrapped up in political intrigue that plays out as a courtroom drama, and an effective one. In terms of pure enjoyment, it's hard to beat the first film, but Hornet's Nest is the most complete film of the three.
Picking up right where The Girl Who Played With Fire left off, Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) has been shot in the head and buried alive, but this woman will not rest. Airlifted to a hospital, she hangs onto life while the powers-that-be, scared of what she knows, plot to finally ruin her for good. While recovering, she's brought into custody for the attempted murder of her father and will face a lifetime in a mental hospital if convicted. With the most powerful men in Sweden working against her, she seems to have no chance. She has a guardian angel, however, in Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist, London Voodoo), who is set to publish an expose in his magazine that will not only have Salander freed, but will blow the lid off a corrupt secret society working in the highest levels of the Swedish justice system.
Although she has a fraction of the lines in Hornet's Nest that she did in either of the previous two films, this film is all about Lisbeth Salander. Where The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is decidedly about Blomkvist with Salander introduced as a supporting player and The Girl Who Played With Fire gives us her story broadly, everything in the final film centers on the character. Blomkvist, relegated to the second tier in middle film, has moved completely into supporting territory where every action he takes serves Salander. Everybody else, good or evil, functions the same way. There is very little subplotting, only a few brief moments of Blomkvist and Erika Berger (Lena Endre, Faithless), his Millenium associate and sometimes girlfriend, give us a break from Lisbeth's story, but even that's unnecessary. By now, she has become such a dominant force on the story that it would be useless to push a bunch of external business into the picture.
Having not read the books, I can't say whether the original story plays out the same, but the result is the most straightforward film in the trilogy. Almost all the revelations, new to the people hearing them onscreen, are old hat to us. It makes for a less gripping payoff than we've had in the past, but it allows the actors more time to work. Whoever finally appears as Lisbeth Salander in the American versions of the stories may be great, but it's extremely hard for me to envision anybody but Noomi Rapace playing the part. In look and demeanor, she completely owns the role and really puts it together in this film. In custody or court nearly the entire time, she is given precious little time for her trademark ass kicking. Without the physicality, she shows off more chops than in the earlier films, where she could rely more on her body. Truly, she doesn't even have that many lines, giving most people the silent treatment, but she shows a ton in her face and her outbursts of emotion are golden. I hope the best for Rapace's career, but I'm sad to see her leave the character behind.
Rapace is most impressive, but the rest of the cast performs nicely as well. Michael Nyqvist plays the puffy-but-still-dashing Mikael Blomkvist in the same manor as before. He is more than adequate in the role, but after the first film, his character takes a back seat to Rapace's. Most of the still-living group of characters from the first films are back and in fine form. Annika Hallin gets a little extra to do as Blomkvist's attorney sister representing Salander, who is convincing and charismatic as she does her best to defend somebody against terrible odds. As a whole, the performances are very solid, but this is, as it always has been, a two person show in Rapace and Nyqvist.
At the helm is Daniel Alfredson, who also directed The Girl Who Played With Fire. Nils Arden Oplev, who directed Dragon Tattoo, does the better work, but having Alfredson back gives more stylistic consistency between the second and third films than between the first two. Since there's no break in the action between Fire and Hornet's Nest, it really could be viewed as one five hour film. Given that the action settles down into the courtroom, it works on a very nice arc. Dragon Tattoo is still the best film in the trilogy, but taken together, the final two are quite good. As a trilogy, it's simply fabulous.
From Music Box, the DVD for The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest very closely resembles the other two discs in the trilogy, an acceptable but bare-bones package. The anamorphic image looks good; not quite reference quality, but nice and crisp. Like the other two films, the cinematography is dark, but the black levels are balanced well with the colors. The sound mix, mostly because of the step down in action in favor of dialog, isn't as strong as its predecessors, but it's still very clear. There isn't a lot of work in the surround channels, but there are touches here and there. The only extra is a trailer. It's too bad that none of the three films had a single valuable feature, but so it goes.
The Millenium trilogy may not be the most high-minded works of fiction ever committed to page or screen, but they're exciting as hell with one iconic character and a host of very good ones. Each film in the trilogy is different from the last, but they all share a tough, conspiratorial attitude. Any problems in the story are small potatoes next to all the good things about the characters. I loved the trilogy and will return to it plenty, I'm sure, and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest is a fitting sendoff for the story.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Music Box Films
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Swedish)
Running Time: 147 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Cinema Verdict Review