With Michael Nykvist, Noomi Rapace, Lena Endre, Anders Ahlbom Rosendahl and Georgi Staykov. Directed by Daniel Alfredson. Rated R for strong violence, some sexual material, and brief language. 148 minutes.
So we come to the last of the Swedish film adaptations of the late Stieg Larsson’s blockbuster trilogy about Lisbeth Salander, a punked-out computer whiz with a troubled past, and Mikael Blomkvist, crusading journalist and one of her few allies in the “straight” world. Like “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo” and “The Girl Who Played With Fire,” THE GIRL WHO KICKED THE HORNETS’ NEST is a story of buried secrets coming to light while those who are to be exposed ruthlessly try to destroy the people who would reveal their secrets.
The story picks up where “Fire” left off. Lisbeth (Noomi Rapace) is in the hospital, charged with the several deaths that occurred at the end of the last story. As she recovers, a friendly doctor keeps the authorities at bay for the moment. Meanwhile Mikael (Michael Nykvist) is at Millennium magazine putting together the exposé that will prove Lisbeth was the victim of a horrible and illegal government conspiracy meant to protect the Soviet defector who was actually her abusive father.
While there’s much running around and killing, the centerpiece of the film is the criminal proceeding against Lisbeth. Key to it is Dr. Teleborian (Anders Ahlbom Rosendahl), under whose previous not-so-tender care Lisbeth was found incompetent to handle her own affairs. This led to the horrendous rape and abuse at the hands of her legal guardian that she suffered in the first film. Teleborian, having a few secrets of his own, is cooperating with the conspirators to paint Lisbeth as a deluded and dangerous individual needing to be locked up. Her appearance in court with spiked hair and fetish garb is not reassuring to the judges.
This is clearly the payoff to the series and will be difficult to follow without having seen the first two films (or having read the first two books), especially the second one. The relationship between Lisbeth and Mikael, already established, is taken for granted here and they have little screen time together. When they finally do meet, it’s an understated scene that is dramatically satisfying only if you know the characters from the previous encounters.
Nykvist is a solid if conventional hero, essentially the stand-in for the audience as he discovers the increasingly bizarre situation around him. Rapace has become an international star for her strong and uncompromising Lisbeth, and it will be interesting to see if she can capitalize on this in other roles. She’s already cast in the “Sherlock Holmes” sequel with Robert Downey, Jr., so we’ll find out next year.
Also on tap next year is the first of the English language remakes, directed by David Fincher and starring Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara. So here’s your chance to read the books and see the Swedish film adaptations now, before the hype begins a year from now for the new versions. The bar is set high. The work in these Swedish films is solid and engrossing, with Rapace’s performance as the unforgettable Lisbeth likely to stand as a landmark among the decade’s films.•••
Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books, the most recent being I’ll Have What She’s Having: Behind The Scenes Of The Great Romantic Comedies. He teaches film at Suffolk University and lives in Somerville.