The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets' Nest

The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets' Nest


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

A young woman stands accused of the attempted murder of her own father. The surgeon who has just pulled a bullet out of her brain now stands between her and a world bent on vengeance. But a journalist and sometime friend - whom she now wants nothing to do with - is willing to go all out to uncover the truth about her past and unearth the conspiracy that led to her downfall. Meanwhile, her psychopathic brother is carving a trail of destruction across rural Sweden and those involved in the conspiracy are ready to resort to drastic measures to protect their secret.

All this might sound hopelessly overblown, and Stieg Larsson's novel does suffer in places from an excess of melodrama, but Ulf Ryberg's masterful adaptation has trimmed it down and tightened it up and made it remarkably easy to accept, even though you may feel a bit lost if you have not seen its two prequels. Ryberg also does a great job of cutting out the slow, meandering subplots that slowed down what was the weakest of the three books, making this into the strongest of the three films. With these his only fictional works, Larsson, who died aged just 50, was still thinking like a journalist, focusing on how real events develop. Ryberg thinks like a storyteller, and the unfolding narrative grips with real force.

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For a film described by director Daniel Alfredson as 'courtroom drama', The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets' Nest packs in plenty of action, and the suspense is sustained effectively throughout. It also features an ending that leaves the softened finale of the first film looking as if it were simply intended to draw in unwary viewers in search of something altogether more conventional. Here Alfredson and Ryberg manage to be genuinely challenging, and to take a hard look at their subject matter, dismissing the simple heroics of traditional victimised-outsider-against-the-system dramas, reminding us that sometimes there is nothing anyone can do that will make it all be alright.

So what of the girl? Here Lisbeth Salander recalls the Terminator as an iconic central character with hardly any lines of dialogue. Her presence is enough, and Noomi Rapace's measured yet intense performance makes any words seem unnecessary. Michael Nyqvist is solid as always in the role of journalist Mikael, and Lena Endre again does a lot with very little as Erika, the editor who loves him. Aksel Morisse also stands out as the doctor, understated but highly effective, providing the film with an important sense of the human and the ordinary against which to balance itself.

It would be impossible to adapt a book like this and keep all of its characters, so several have been removed; in places this means that events hang together a little awkwardly. The loss of a subplot concerning Erkia's stalker works structurally but denies the story some of the feminist polemic which Larsson argued was the point. Still, Rapace and Endre do a good job of compensating for this with subtler work. Jacob Groth's atmospheric score perfectly maintains a melancholy mood that works with the film's politics and its subdued lighting to suggest a time of dying, perhaps appropriate to the end of a millenium. There is no confusion of justice with hope, no twee reassurance that 'it gets better', but we don't need it, because like its heroine, even after a bullet to the brain, this is a thriller that is very much alive and kicking.

Reviewed on: 18 Nov 2010
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The final part of the Millenium trilogy, this film sees its heroine facing trial for murder as her friends race to uncover the conspiracy that has victimised her.
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Director: Daniel Alfredson

Writer: Ulf Ryberg, based on the book by Stieg Larsson.

Starring: Noomi Rapace, Michael Nyqvist, Lena Endre, Annika Hallin, Jacob Ericksson, Anders Ahlbom, Micke Spreitz

Year: 2009

Runtime: 147 minutes

Country: Sweden, Denmark, Germany


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