The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest Review
*This review contains spoilers of The Girl Who Played With Fire*
Arriving in cinemas just three months after the sequel, The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest kicks off immediately after the shocking events at the climax of The Girl Who Played With Fire. With Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace) recovering in hospital after being shot in the head by her father, it falls to journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist) to prove her innocence when a secret group within government instigate a cover-up to ensure that everything Salander knows remains hidden, threatening her own personal freedom in the process.
Immediately the one thing that ensures The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest is a stronger effort than …Played With Fire is that it is a more coherent affair, perhaps because of its meatier running time. Unlike the somewhat slapdash sequel, you won’t necessarily have had to have read the book before you see the film in order to understand the events and how everything is connected. That’s not to say you don’t have to have seen the previous two films though: you’re as likely to be able to follow this film without seeing the previous two as the Lib Dems are likely to retain the student vote. What it does mean though is that you’re not left bemused as events rattle past like they do in the second film, resulting in you being able to relax and take in the taut suspense and conspiratorial intrigue that permeates throughout the film.
While events are certainly streamlined between the page and screen – for example, the Government team investigating The Section are almost sidelined, including Blomkvist’s relationship with Monica Figuerola, in favour of viewing events from Blomkvist’s perspective and Millenium editor Erika Berger’s sub plot of a new job is completely ignored – they aren’t done so at the detriment of the film and are pretty smart moves overall, certainly smarter than sidelining Bublanski’s investigation in the second film. In fact, the lack of background into The Section, the nefarious secret society, means that when events do start to piece together during the gripping courtroom scenes, it’s an altogether more satisfying experience than the book when you almost could pretty much predict what twists and turns it was going to take.
As literary adaptations go, it’s about as faithful as you could get of Larsson’s sprawling 600-odd page epic without being six hours long. Arguably the film’s major flaw is as a result of how events unfold in the book with Salander, easily the series’ most interesting, dynamic and exciting character, confined to both a hospital bed and a prison cell for the majority of the film. Almost expectedly though, Noomi Rapace is exquisite and flawless as the titular heroine and is able to tell more in a micro expression than most actors can from a page of dialogue. Her intense rage showcased in an almost entirely expressionless face during one of the film’s stand out sequences when she comes face-to-face with her life-long tormentor, Dr Peter Teleborian, is something special to behold. The baton’s over to you Rooney Mara, but you have to fear for her because there will be only ever be one true Salander.
The rest of the cast though are a bit of a mixed bag which is why the film can drag a touch during its beginning and middle acts when the focus isn’t on either Blomkvist or Salander. Michael Nyqvist is dependable as ever as the world-weary Blomkvist who will do anything to save Salander and Anders Ahlbom Rosendahl is deliciously slimy as Teleborian, but the rest sometimes fail to rise above one-dimensional or, perhaps fittingly given the film’s original background as a two-part TV adaptation, TV ‘Movie Of The Week’ quality. Worst offender is Micke Spreitz as Ronald Niedermann, Salander’s half-brother on the run from the cops, although even Rapace might have struggled with a role that just requires him to look menacing for a series of short scenes; his appearance is so superfluous that you almost wish that subplot had either been resolved in an entirely different way to the book or disregarded completely, as it just robs the film of momentum every time the action switches to it.
Despite this though and the fact that it lacks the action of the second film, you will never be bored as events move at a brisk pace relentlessly to the courtroom where the film truly comes to life. From the moment Salander walks in wearing what can only be described as ‘interesting’ attire, the pulse races and you’ll come close to practically booing the screen whenever the prosecution raises a new damning point about Salander. Sure, things are perhaps a bit too cut-and-dry and good vs. evil, unfortunate given the very grey areas that Salander resides in as a heroine, but Alfredson takes the sensible option of not injecting snazzy cuts into it, instead shooting it very straight, to ensure that the constant twists and turns of the case provide the thrills to make you forget about the somewhat contrived nature of it.
While it may not be anywhere near as strong as The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest is still a stronger effort than the sequel. It’s certainly not flawless – in particular Alfredson mucks up the ending of the film which lacks the poignancy of the book’s and results in the feeling that the film just kind of…ends – and it has to settle for being very good rather than great, but a lot of fun is had along the way. The final courtroom battle is worth the ticket price alone, as again is Rapace’s performance, and there’s enough twists, turns and political intrigue to keep even the most ardent conspiracy theorist satisfied. Your move Fincher.