The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Next (Swedish: Luftslottet som sprängdes), 2009.
Starring Michael Nyqvist, Noomi Rapace and Lena Endre.
Awaiting trial for attemped murder, Lisbeth Salander races to prove her innocence with the aid of Millennium reporter Mikael Blomkvist.
As far as film trilogies go, the Millenium films have been one of the most tautly paced and superbly executed series in a long, long time. The Bourne trilogy is perhaps its only credible contender, but even Jason Bourne’s gritty spy thrills can’t begin to approach Lisbeth Salander’s stark world of merciless mind games and bitter conspiracies.
Now the UK finally gets its grubby paws on the final instalment, The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest, we can see that director Daniel Alfredson has lost none of his flare for spinning a tricky plot into a marvellously watchable tale. Followers of the series will be satisfied with a characteristic sign-off from rebel heroine Lisbeth Salander, though first-timers have a hell of a job rooting for Lisbeth this time around.
Hornet’s Nest builds and builds up to the climactic trial, following journalistic stalwart Mikael Blomkvist as he gathers vital evidence for Lisbeth’s defense. Our subversive heroine is largely confined to a hospital room for the first hour or so, perhaps coming across as deliberately awkward and ungrateful to a series of people bending over backwards to help her. Denied her usual freedom to run roughshod over Sweden’s crooked politicians and paedophiles, Noomi Rapace has a tough time making us care for her character at all.
It doesn’t show straight away, but eventually we realise these are a series of mind games, designed to derail cruel, intelligent enemies. Perhaps the most powerful instance of Lisbeth’s psychological attacks is her appearance in court. She dresses to intimidate, swathed in black, chains and spikes on her collar, her hair sprayed up into a tribal mohawk. The entire courtroom is shocked to be confronted with this sight, effectively that of a Viking going into battle, donning armour and warpaint, all the better to unnerve the opposition.
Unlike anyone else in Hornet’s Nest, Lisbeth is determined and unashamed to be herself, no matter the cost to her reputation or freedom. Hollywood couldn’t dream up a heroine like this in a million years, and that’s possibly why we like her so much.
Appropriately, the Millenium series’ villains have been equally ruthless and unexpectedly dangerous. Retired spy Fredrik Clinton and his long-time comrade Evert Gullberg are played with astonishing sang froid by Lennart Hjulström and Hans Alfredson, calmly discussing Lisbeth’s assassination without showing so much as a tremor of conscience. Questioned for his audacity in pronouncing death on others, Clinton sneers “We do the jobs nobody else has the guts to do.” He truly believes himself justified, which is somehow scarier than the vicious giant Niedermann, now dishing out random brutality to Swedish citizens everywhere he goes.
If Hornet’s Nest seems a bit like diving in the deep end, it might help to think of it as the third act in one giant film. The heroes are called to adventure with the events of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, the stakes are raised in The Girl Who Played With Fire, finally escalating toward the cathartic satisfaction of Hornet’s Nest.
Essentially, it’s confusing and unforgiving for viewers encountering the Millenium series for the first time. Hornet’s Nest is not designed for passing trade, and Alfredson knows it. The film only makes sense as part of a greater whole, and there it fits beautifully, providing a fitting end to a massively satisfying saga. If that sounds like a criticism, imagine stumbling upon the Star Wars trilogy for the first time by way of Return of the Jedi. Blue ghosts? Robot hand? Ewoks? You’d run a mile.
Simon Moore is a budding screenwriter, passionate about films both current and classic. He has a strong comedy leaning with an inexplicable affection for 80s montages and movies that you can’t quite work out on the first viewing.
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