Woman of the Year

movie_thegirlwhoActress, character soar in ‘Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest’

he devil finally gets her due, and it’s a glorious thing to behold, in The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest. In this third and final installment of the gritty, uncompromising Swedish film trilogy based on the globally bestselling Stieg Larsson novels, the devil in question is, of course, Lisbeth Salander—at least as far as the old boy’s club of aging white males in the corrupt, clandestine inner circle of Sweden’s power elite are concerned. To the series’ legion of fans, especially women, Lisbeth is an avenging angel who refuses to back down in the face of overwhelming male power. And in her third outing as tough, resourceful, utterly implacable Lisbeth, actress Noomi Rapace proves why she’s cinema’s Woman of the Year for 2010.

Hornet’s Nest is directed by alumnus Daniel Alfredson (he also helmed the second film in the series, The Girl Who Played With Fire) from a script by Ulf Ryberg. All three films together tell the complete story of Lisbeth Salander, and most of the hard action was in the first two films: this third act is mostly devoted to tying up threads, resolutions, and meting out just deserts (at long last). But even with less thundering action this time out, there’s still plenty of breathtaking suspense as Lisbeth and her allies launch their stealth investigation to tumble the powers that be—or die trying.

The transition from the last film is seamless and immediate. More dead than alive, Lisbeth is being airlifted away from the scene of her last encounter with her evil-incarnate father, former Soviet defector Zalachenko (Georgi Saykov), and her monster half-brother, Niedermann (Mikael Spreitz). Flashback images briefly sketch in the gory details, and more adroit exposition is provided as crusading journalist Mikael Blomkvist (the endearingly rumpled, savvy and tenacious Michael Nyqvist) starts pounding out his cover story on Lisbeth for his investigative Millennium magazine—the gist of which is how Lisbeth, brutalized since childhood by powerful male authority figures attempting to silence her, has devoted her life to seeking justice.

At the moment, however, Lisbeth is recovering in the hospital until she’s fit to stand trial for murder. Silent and wary, she has to decide who she can trust and who is capable of protecting her, beginning with her amiable young doctor (Aksel Morisse) and her new lawyer, Annika (Annika Hallin), Mikael’s pregnant sister, whom he has persuased to defend Lisbeth.

Resisting robbery, death threats, and government pressure, Mickael, Annika, and the “Millenium” team race to build their case in time to exonerate Lisbeth in court. When Mikael gets her cell phone smuggled into her room, expert hacker Lisbeth joins the team, along with her subterranean hacker guru buddy, “Plague.” As their investigation leads ever higher up the political food chain to Sweden’s secret power elite, Mikael is pulled in by Secret Service agents interested in cutting an unexpected deal. And of course, while all this is going on, the fearsome Niedermann is still on the loose, wreaking havoc among the populace, gearing up for the inevitable final showdown with his half-sister.

The procedural fomat never slows things down; in fact, the running time flies by as each new revelation falls into place. But what makes this and all the films in the series such a rush is the depiction of strong women who stand their ground (or fight back, tooth and nail, in Lisbeth’s case) in a social order where casual misogyny is so deeply ingrained, it’s scarcely noticed—from a government agent expecting his female colleague to bring in the tea, to systematic physical/sexual abuse of female troublemakers.

movies_thegirlwhoIt’s no accident that the women perceived as the most helpless—pregnant Annika and tiny Lisbeth (she looks “like a child,” scoffs one male adversary) finally prevail. And it’s worth the price of admission to see Lisbeth, restored to full Goth regalia (leather, chains, piercings, and huge mohawk) striding down the corridors of justice to her trial. (Even as we wonder if the prison suddenly ran out of jumpsuits.) But even as we cheer her on, the psychological damage has already been done, which gives her character and this series an element of classical tragedy—even in victory.


★★★ 1/2 (out of four)

With Noomi Rapace and Michael Nyqvist. Written by Ulf Ryberg. From the novel by Stieg Larsson. Directed by Daniel Alfredson. A Music Box release. Watch film trailer >> 
Rated R. 147 minutes.


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