Mikael Blomkvist fights for justice for Lisbeth Salander in The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, the final chapter of the Stieg Larsson trilogy.
At least, the final chapter in Swedish — god knows how many movies the American version of this saga will contain.
Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace) is more or less where we left her — bleeding and on the way to the hospital after shooting her father, Alexander Zalachenko (Georgi Staykov), a Soviet spy turned criminal, and her half-brother, Ronald Niedermann (Micke Spreitz), who is like an evil silent version of Andre the Giant. Mikael Blomkvist found her, half dead after they tried to kill her at her father’s estate, and got her help. Now she is on the hook for the attempted murder of her father — a seeming flaw in the Swedish legal system, considering her own injuries. But Mikael Blomkvist is determined to help her and wants to write an exposé in his Millennium magazine that will prove that her troubles — to include a childhood stint in a mental institution and recent abuse at the hands of her court-appointed guardian — all stem from a government cover-up.
The Soviet spy part is the reason for the cover-up and the reason that Zalachenko has continued to be untouchable, even though, if I remember correctly, he was running some sex trafficking ring in the last movie. Or something. These last two movies have been thick with details and it’s not always clear what everyone’s motives are. Like, for example, why the super secret cabal protecting Zalachenko didn’t just end the problem of him with a bullet years ago. Also unclear: much of what happens in the courtroom scenes. It’s hard to understand why half the testimony occurs — a Law & Order judge would have chung-chunged most of the so-called evidence right out of the trial during one of those great “in chambers” scenes. Here, Lisbeth seems to be loaded down with false accusations so that her triumph will be bigger, maybe. But we already know a lot of what is “true” about her, so this slow torture of the character feels unnecessary.
But the gist is that Lisbeth is fighting for herself in court (often in full punk regalia — another thing I didn’t completely understand as it seemed to undermine the way the series has set up her character) and Mikael is fighting for her in the press and both of them are often in danger.
As with the second movie, The Girl Who Played with Fire, this movie is not nearly as strong as the juicy mystery story that was the first movie, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. In that movie, Mikael and Lisbeth worked together, they had a single who-done-it to solve and even the stuff that felt peripheral or weirdly violent all seemed to work together. (Sometimes it was all working together to make the argument that most men are pigs, which seems both dated and rather a broad brush, but still there was a singular theme.)
In Hornet’s Nest, we seem to have come as far as possible from the structure and tone of that first movie. The second movie plunged us into a muddled conspiracy. The road we follow out of it in the third movie is all about Lisbeth. The story basically hangs together if you don’t pick at the details but this movie has more ragged edges, more unnecessary filler and more missing connections. I wanted both more story and less movie.
What sort of redeem the movie — or at least makes it worth sitting through for diehard fans of the trilogy — are the characters. These lumpy, wrinkly, bad-skin-having, funny-looking Swedes are kind of great to watch. Not just Mikael and Lisbeth but also his magazine coworker Erika (Lena Endre), the strange old men who are part of the Lisbeth-persecuting conspiracy, the nice doctor who tries to protect Lisbeth, the obviously evil psychiatrist from her childhood, Lisbeth’s lawyer who is, I believe, Mikael’s sister. I don’t always get what these people are doing or why they’re acting the way they are but their ordinariness makes them kind of fascinating.
If you didn’t see the previous two movies, I definitely don’t suggest you start here — or ever bother getting here, frankly. But for those two-thirds of the way in, this final journey is probably worth taking. C
Rated R for strong violence, some sexual material and brief language. Directed by Daniel Alfredson and Jonas Frykberg (from the novel by Stieg Larsson), The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest is two hours and 28 minutes long and opens in limited release on Friday, Oct. 29. It is distributed by Music Box Films.