The third and final entry in Stieg Larsson's enormously successful series is perhaps the least thrilling, but it's easily the most satisfying. For those who have spent two films suffering along with the almost cosmically tortured Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace), The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest will be particularly cathartic. As a film, it's about as pedestrian as the others in the series, but as usual it is Larsson's storytelling talents and the near mythic Salander character that keeps us engaged.
When we last saw Lisbeth and the Millennium Magazine gang, the brilliant hacker was trying to kill her abusive father, a old and rotting Russian defector. Oh, and defend herself against his hulking bodyguard, Niedermann, a blonde weirdo who is genetically impervious to pain. (Oh, and he turned out to be her half-brother, too! The plot does thicken a bit here and there.) Somehow all three survived the bloody confrontation, and the story picks up immediately after, with Lisbeth and her father being sent to the same hospital to be patched up while Niedermann goes off on his own looking for vengeance. Meanwhile, her old friend, "Millennium" journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist), sets about uncovering the full extent of the vile conspiracy responsible for Lisbeth's abuse and for criminal activity within the government. Everyone involved finds their lives to be in great danger as the conspirators work to cut all loose ends through murder and to have Lisbeth institutionalized to keep her silent.
One of the boldest aspects of the books is that each one is in a slightly different subgenre, all linked by the enigmatic Lisbeth. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is a country-house gothic murder mystery, The Girl Who Played with Fire is a kind of Bourne Identity-styled conspiracy thriller, and this one is mostly a courtroom drama. This pushes the already complex story into even murkier territory with much haggling over evidence and legal procedure. It also forces Lisbeth to take a back seat as various machinations turn their gears around her. This reduces the kinetic drive of the film and forces director Daniel Alfredson (returning from The Girl Who Played with Fire) to do a bit of cinematic tap dancing in order to keep the film visually interesting. Many elements of the admittedly engaging story are conventional, and sometimes even downright absurd. The Niedermann character in particular still seems to be left over from some rejected James Bond script, and his subplot seems to have been attached to the film with scotch tape. Lisbeth's "goth" outfit has reached its zenith here, and at times her leather, piercings, and spiked hair make her look like Edward Scissorhands. On an narrative level, the motivations of the conspirators seem to be the result of senility and madness rather than the diabolical plotting of a brilliant cabal. It also doesn't help that Mikael and Lisbeth do not share a scene together until the end of the film, since so much of the story's effect comes from their unique relationship. That said, this is the end of a long road, and it does provide most of the answers and confrontations that are expected and desired. Lisbeth learns to trust some people and to use the very system that betrayed her to bring down her violators. Rapace is as good as ever and remains the one element that seems hard for the upcoming American remake to top.
As with the other two films in the trilogy released by Music Box Films Home Entertainment, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest comes with no significant extras. The film is presented in 16:9 anamorphic with a good transfer for a film with lots of night scenes and dark interiors. There are no issues with the sound mix, which, for a film that is dialogue dependent, is a good thing. If you want your fill of extras, Music Box of course makes you purchase the box set, which includes a nearly hour-long documentary about Stieg Larsson and various behind-the-scenes featurettes.