Warning: the following contains spoilers for those who haven’t yet seen The Girl Who Played With Fire.
The third and final instalment of the late Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy picks up pretty much from the last frame of the previous film, The Girl Who Played With Fire. So, try as I might, a few spoilers might be unavoidable whilst talking about The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets’ Nest. For those who haven’t seen it, Fire revolved around hacker-cyberpunk Lisbeth Salander’s search for her father, whose face she burnt off as a child, and culminated in a big shootout.
Hornets’ Nest opens with Salander (Noomi Rapace) being taken to a Gothenburg hospital after receiving a gunshot wound to the head in said shootout. Her father is also still alive, and it appears that Salander’s actions have not gone unnoticed within the corridors of an even darker conclave of power, the Section. After a bungled assassination attempt, the Section look to silence Salander by having her committed to a mental asylum under the watchful eye of corrupt doctor Peter Teleborian.
However, the crusading journalist Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist), once again steps in to fight Salander’s corner, by convincing his sister, Annika, to act as her lawyer. The film then splits of into twin narrative strands: one following Lisbeth’s rehabilitation and trial, the other charting Blomkvist’s continuing investigations into the Section and his work for Millennium – a hard hitting political magazine.
Hornets’ Nest has all the same faults as Fire – the talk-heavy atmosphere and staid pacing, for example – and one huge blunder. The one big selling point in these films (and by de facto the books as well) was Lisbeth, the genius sociopathic antihero with little or no use for anyone. And however much time was lavished on the much more conventional, and rather dull character of Blomkvist, Salander was always on hand to liven the pace again. Yet here she is confined to a hospital room and then a prison cell awaiting her trial for 99% of the film, tapping away at her mobile phone.
This leaves Blomkvist to really drive the film, and after two and a half hours I was getting restless.
The plot is also pretty messy in places, leaving the impression of a confused adaptation of a very dense book. Subplots and characters come and go, fizzling out and getting forgotten. There is an interesting undercurrent within Millennium, as the other staff are starting to resent Blomkvist’s egocentric grandstanding, but this is never fully explored. The main focus of villainy is shifted onto Dr Teleborian, and trying to clone his hard drive to get at all those nefarious emails between him and the Section. And Niedermann, the Bond-villain-esque goon who can feel no pain, is also on the hunt for Salander.
Fire director Daniel Alfredson returns to complete the virtual two-hander, and once again does well with what was admittedly a TV-scale budget. His is an unfussy style, but for the most part Hornets’ Nest retains a cinematic aesthetic. The actors are also very good, filling out their characters with the sort of confidence and depth you would expect in the third film of a trilogy. Noomi Rapace is still outstanding as Salander, even if the film offers her little or no room to manoeuvre. And it’s no surprise she has been given a Hollywood break in Guy Ritchie’s upcoming Sherlock Holmes 2.
I was never completely taken in by Larsson’s world, and it was probably too late for Hornets’ Nest to change my mind. And it is unlikely that many non-fans will have stuck with the series after the visceral detective story offered up in Dragon Tattoo. With this is mind, I would suspect that Hornets’ Nest will offer a satisfying sense of closure. But there is almost nothing here for anyone else – this is a dull film that only survives because of a residual affection for the characters.
As has been my opinion of this series from the start, roll on the much more exciting prospect of the David Fincher version due out next year.
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