Publish or perish
The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest, thriller, rated R, in Swedish with subtitles, The Screen, 3.5 chiles
It’s the biggest thing out of Sweden since the Volvo, meatballs, Bjorn Borg, and Anita Ekberg. It’s Stieg Larsson’s Millennium trilogy, which began with The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and concludes with The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest. Larsson never lived to see his enormous success — all three novels have become huge international bestsellers, with more than 20 million copies sold in 41 countries. The three Swedish movie adaptations are box-office and critical hits, and Hollywood is ready to snatch the baton and run another lap, with David Fincher ( The Social Network) at the helm.
And then there’s the laptop. In a development worthy of Larsson’s plots, a fourth and possibly part of a fifth novel in the series apparently lies buried in his laptop. But here’s the twist. The laptop is in the possession of Eva Gabrielsson, Larsson’s life partner for more than 30 years. Larsson and Gabrielsson never married. He died suddenly without a will, and under Swedish law his estate has gone to his father and brother. According to Gabrielsson, Stieg wasn’t particularly close to his family, and she’s not letting the new manuscripts out until they hand over to her the rights to the Millennium series. They’ve offered a cash settlement. She doesn’t want their money. So far they haven’t snatched the laptop, the way the bad guys do in this movie.
But you want to know about the movie. It picks up where The Girl Who Played With Fire left off. And that one left off like a Dallas season-ending cliffhanger, with its heroine Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace) shot and buried in a shallow grave.
Actually, people did dig her up and find a pulse at the end of the previous movie, so here we start with Salander in the hospital and some nice graphic footage of brain surgery. Director Daniel Alfredson and screenwriters Jonas Frykberg and Ulf Ryberg do a little housekeeping, trying to bring the uninitiated up to speed with quick updates of the previous action. But if you haven’t seen the first two films, it would be a good idea to digest them before you walk into the third act. It’s like going back to school for your junior year — by now you know people, you have friends, you’re comfortable with the layout, and you’re eager to see where new events will take you.
The perpetrators of the nastiness in part two were Salander’s father, the evil Russian defector Zalachenko (Georgi Stakov) and her half-brother, the mountainous, white-haired Ronald Neidermann (Micke Spreitz, a bit reminiscent of the great Robert Shaw in From Russia With Love). Neidermann has escaped, and Zalachenko has an ax in his skull, courtesy of his daughter’s vigorous selfdefense. He is in a hospital room just down the corridor from Salander.
All this mess creates unease for the men involved in a shadowy extra-governmental security outfit, known here only as The Section. For reasons that become more or less clear as these old warriors meet for tea, dialysis, and dispassionate plotting, Zalachenko and Salander are loose ends who will require extreme prejudice to clean up.
Mikael “Micke” Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist), the crusading investigative reporter for Millennium magazine, is mad as hell, and he is ready to devote an entire edition of the magazine to clearing Salander’s name and exposing the villains who have conspired to ruin her life. Chief among them is the weaselly psychiatrist Peter Teleborian (Anders Ahlbom), who is in cahoots with the shadowy men and has some deep dark shadows of his own. Millennium is scheduled to hit the stands as her trial opens. But when you’re playing in these leagues, the stakes can be terminal, and Micke’s publisher and sometime lover Erika Berger (Lena Endre) gets cold feet when she starts receiving threatening emails and bricks flung through her window. “No job is worth dying for,” she observes.
Salander spends a good deal of this movie in a hospital bed, and then in a courtroom, and she and Micke never come face to face until the end, so the movie’s action and tension have to come from other directions. Alfredson builds that tension expertly, crediting his audience with the intelligence and patience to bear with him as he meticulously assembles his scenes and sets his ducks in a row. The movie is beautifully photographed by Peter Mokrosinski with a chilly palette of grays and blues, and Jacob Groth’s score adds to the overall atmosphere.
The cast is as good as ever, and as ever, Rapace dominates with her suspicious, sullen watchfulness. Teleborian describes Salander’s condition as paranoid schizophrenia, but we know better. When she strides into court in full goth mode, it’s a bracing thing to see. Salander finally does get to break out in an action showdown sequence near the end with the pain-challenged Niedermann, and it’s one of the film’s few disappointments that the scene doesn’t go quite exhilaratingly crazy enough.
The Hollywood leads are now set, with Daniel Craig as Micke and Rooney Mara (the girl in the opening scene of The Social Network) stepping into Rapace’s stilettos. Mara comes from a football family (her great-grandfather was the founder of the Pittsburgh Steelers), and she’ll need all that toughness to deal with the challenge of coming off the bench for the actress who has made this role a legend.
Fade to black eyeliner: Noomi Rapace