Sunday, 5 December 2010

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets' Nest

And so, Stieg Larsson's Millenium Trilogy finally reaches its end in The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets' Nest. Is it a cathartic finish for Noomi Rapace's goth computer hacker, Lisbeth Salander? Will Michael Nyqvist's crusading journalist, Mikael Blomkvist, be able to save the day? Or is it less of a sting in the tail and more a blunted climax?

Thankfully, after the idiotic Girl Who Played Fire, an entry that sank under the sheer weight of ridiculous, convoluted storylines, Hornets' Nest ends on a note that is at least satisfying, if nothing else. It's talky, prosaic and very long but it sensibly treats the characters as characters once again, as opposed to devices. It's hard to tell if all the extraneous storylines are tied up but the loyalty to the characters is refreshing and, crucially, plausible. It hearkens back to the moody Gothic intrigue of opener The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, a thriller that, although flawed, proved grimly compelling in spite of a muddled storyline.

Briefly recapping the bloody end of Fire, Salander has wound up in hospital with a bullet in the head. Her repulsive, sex-trafficking father has survived as well, although her impervious-to-pain half-brother is still on the loose (maybe 007 can sort him out). The sense of intrigue and portent gathers steam when the mysterious organisation who have been lurking in the background of the previous two films plot to remove Salander and her father once and for all. It's up to Blomkvist to compile a credible legal case and begin the final fight back.

It's a big ask to sit through what is essentially more than two hours of exposition and, with even more characters constantly added to the mix, it threatens to become ever more over-wrought. But there's a vital sense of things coming to a dramatic head, and when Rapace turns up in court, hair done up in a mohawk, clad in heavy leather, make-up and rings, the moral concerns of Larsson's work cut through all the fluff like a hot knife through butter.

For while there's been a lot of padding during this trilogy, Rapace has been nothing short of magnificent, forging one of the most dynamic, complex female character studies seen in a film in years. Nyqvist is also impressive, albeit in a more understated, impassioned sense, and it's terrific to him finally fighting for the cause, but it's Rapace's show all the way. Her character is the greatest enigma of all, and the film has the good sense to end it as such. Ultimately, sexual politics may be the most confusing thing of all - but it's never dull with characters like Salander around.

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