The girl who kicked the hornets’ nest

Daniel Alfredson, director of the second “Millennium” film (“The Girl Who Played With Fire”), has delivered again with the final installment of the Steig Larsson/Lisbeth Salander trilogy, “The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets’ Nest.” “Fire” ended with a cliffhanger: the never-say-die heroine—Salander—had just narrowly escaped another attempt on her life before being rescued by celebrity journalist Mikael Blomqvist. “Nest” picks right up in the middle of the action; Lisbeth is airlifted to a hospital where it soon becomes clear that both her supporters and her would-be assassins are all still hard at work. Chaos, full of intrigue and adrenaline, ensues.

If “Nest” moves a bit quickly and crams a lot of material into every scene, it’s not Alfredson’s fault. The third novel in Larsson’s series clocks in at well over five hundred pages and it’s hard to imagine the adaptation being any more successful without vital material being excised from the film. Even so, it can be rough going for those who aren’t familiar with the story. But even with this glut of information to convey, Alfredson and writer Ulf Ryberg have managed to make some interesting changes to the story: the judge presiding over Lisbeth’s trial has been changed from a man in the novel to a woman in the film, and Blomqvist’s sister, the attorney who ends up defending Lisbeth and bringing the whole story to a close, is pregnant in the film but not in the novel.

Both the writer and director have done their subtle best to carry out Larsson’s desire to tell a strongly feminist story while remaining politely cloaked in your run-of-the-mill thriller. At every turn, female characters pop up to take on the system, whether in the courtroom, the press, or face to face with would-be murderers. The effect is galvanizing–as is Noomi Rapace’s performance—and “Nest” thus maintains the same standard of quality as the previous two installments. The films’ frankness toward institutionalized violence against women might not go over so well here, however (the first novel, originally titled “Men Who Hate Women,” was rechristened “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo”).

American remakes of the trilogy are already in the works – the first is slated to be released later this year, directed by David Fincher (“Fight Club”) and starring Rooney Mara (“The Social Network”). Let’s see if the American directors can match the pacing and flawless story construction of the Swedish films, and have the brain and guts needed to stay true to the heart of Larsson’s story.

“The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets’ Nest” is currently available on DVD.