The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest – 2009

Directed by Daniel Alfredson

Starring Noomi Rapace, Michael Nyqvist, Mike Spreitz, Annika Hallin, Aksel Morisse, Georgi Staykov, Anders Ahlbom

Written by Jonas Frykberg, Ulf Rydberg, based on the novel by Stieg Larsson

Someone to watch over her.

There is a moment early on when Lisbeth Salander (Rapace) lays nearly helpless in the hospital recuperating from the near fatal wounds that she suffers in the previous installment, The Girl Who Played With Fire as a sinister psychiatrist Dr. Teleborian (Ahlbom) informs Lisbeth’s medical Dr. Jonasson that he will need access to his patient to perform a psychiatric evaluation on her for her upcoming trial for attempted murder.  Jonasson, played softly, yet resolutely by Aksel Morisse, quite powerfully denies him access.  This move provides a microcosm of the third (and presumably last) story in the Millennium Trilogy.  Teleborian, an old, perverted sleaze like just about every other man over 50 in this series, is used to not being questioned.  This is about to change.

The most interesting part of The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest is that the wily, slimy, crippled and

The establishment's latest protectorate.

strangely elusive nemesis of the entire series, Zalchenko, is dispatched before we get a half hour into the story.  From there, you’d think the bubble would burst and Salander could be allowed to breathe the breath of freedom.  On the contrary.  Her very connection to Zalchenko puts her life in danger.  Zalchenko was such a salacious mastermind of deceit and corruption, his tentacles spread so wide and far into the establishment, anyone who survived his rein of terror had the potential to expose and to implicate his connection to the old guard.

It is in this way that Larsson was able to mix his passions as an instigator of the rich and powerful and protector of the weak and innocent.  Salander, to this point, has been beaten, battered and bruised.  But she has been able, primarily, to fend for herself.  Now, someone whom she has helped not only to survive, but to thrive in Mikael.  Now it’s Mikael’s turn to play a friendly card.

If Florence Nightingale was a man...

It is still a secret weapon of the film to make such a meek and mild-mannered protagonist in Mikael.  He has no strength but his courage, his research and his determination to find truth and justice.  He has no weapons, he refuses special protection and his intentions are pure.  I am not sure how this kind of hero would play in the United States.  He is the anti-cowboy.

There is a profound sense of kindness expressed throughout the Larssen series.  People who truly care about others, and ask for nothing in return.  Dr. Jonassan is a good example of this.  I am not sure if this is a Swedish trait or if indeed it is unique to Larssen, but seeing the way Dr. Jonasson goes out of his way to look after the well-being of Lisbeth is touching in the way that in an American film, I am pretty sure they would have ended up a couple.  Sure it would play sweetly, but it would also take the edge off of Salander, an edge she needs to stay alive.

Other examples of kindness are, of course, Mikael and his friends at Millennium Group.  They are crusaders, driven towards the truth and concerned in a truly extraordinary way about the people their stories are designed to protect, but exposing those who would hurt them.  The extent of their efforts had been pretty comparable to this point.  After losing a writer and his girlfriend in the previous story however, Mikael’s partner, Erika, is a little hesitant.  It doesn’t help matters much

For the defense, the beautiful and intelligent Annika.

that she continues to have her own life threatened.  Mikael, showing an almost callous disregard for not only his own but his co-worker’s safety, decides to press on.

Also involved quite heavily now is Mikael’s sister, Annika (Hallin), who deftly performs as Lisbeth’s lawyer even though she is several months pregnant.  This leads to a very unique, interesting and real exchange when Annika, walking on a near deserted street in the middle of the day, has important investigative papers swiped from her by a man on a motorcycle.  She yells at him.  He stops.  She does nothing.  He moves on.  My stomach sinks 3 and 1/2 feet every time I see it.  It feels like the end.  Why would she put her life and that of her unborn child to risk?  Because she has faith in her brother.

Neidermann (below) provides an adequate menace for the film.

The movie moves along like a procedural, almost, going from point to point, obtaining information to be used in the court case to save Lisbeth.  In this way, the movie loses some, but not all its energy.  The court scenes are good, for the most part, with some perplexingly obvious moves.  That said, the movie wraps up the series quite nicely.  Some of Salander’s fringe element friends, like Plague, make important contributions to the story.  As the menacing and silent Neidermann, Spreitz provides a wild card that the movie definitely benefits from.

There is a cohesion to this series that works well, even if there were 5 different screenwriters and 2 different directors.  It is a somber judgement on society to perceive that hatred of women and abuse of the innocent is such a distinct institution.  I am not sure if it is a reality that there are forces at work today that can effectively counter these evil institutions.  The recent pillaging of Wall Street on our dime with no true consequence to its perpetrators show me that it is easier for the “winners” to get away with it than for any of the weak or even just solid citizens to get justice.  Salander and Mikael represent hope for us, in this way.  The same way we cheer for a man in an Iron suit to conquer imagined foes, we root for Lisbeth to just break even with her guts, brains, and a bit of brawn.

I am not sure how Fincher can top these 3 films.  I only know it will take a director of his stature and ability to approach it.  The courtroom scenes would not qork the same way in this country, to be sure.  I have been underwhelmed before by Fincher’s choice of film to make or remake.  This series,  and in particular, the performances of Rapace and Nyqvist, will be hard to top.


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