Tuesday 19 July 2011

Movie Review: The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets' Nest (2009)

A reasonably satisfying conclusion to the movie adaptation of Stieg Larsson's book trilogy, The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets' Nest ties up most of the loose ends. That it requires almost 150 minutes to do so illustrates just how many plot threads needed to be picked up, and some remain scattered at the end regardless (remember the human trafficking and prostitution sub-plot from The Girl Who Played With Fire? It's nowhere to be found).

After the bloody conclusion of the previous episode, The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets' Nest opens with both Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace) and her father Zalachenko being rushed to hospital. Lisbeth is suffering from three bullet wounds, one to her skull, while Zalachenko is dealing with the nasty effects of an axe swing, courtesy of Lisbeth.

The existence of a secretive pseudo government group called The Section is soon revealed. Formed in the 1970s, The Section was responsible for protecting Zalachenko, the most high level Soviet spy to defect to Sweden. Subsequent governments lost track of The Section and Zalachenko: he became a master criminal, with The Section protecting him from any scrutiny or prosecution. But from his hospital bed, Zalachenko pushes his luck with The Section: they in turn dispatch him once and for all with a bullet to the head. An attempt on Lisbeth's life fails, but with the help of the slimy Dr. Teleborian, a plot is set in motion to put her on trial, declare her insane, and lock her up for good.

Meanwhile investigative reporter Mikael Blomqvist (Michael Nyqvist) has pieced together the story of Lisbeth and Zalachenko, and prepares a major expose of the whole sordid affair, to be published in Millennium magazine. Mikael also remotely helps Lisbeth to document her story from her hospital bed, and he secures the services of his sister Annika as Lisbeth's lawyer.

With both The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets' Nest and The Girl Who Played With Fire, the aftertaste is that of movies stumbling by trying to capture all the book details, the same flaw that so hampered the adaptation of The Da Vinci Code. The reading experience can afford a multitude of characters and interesting sub-quests; the movie experience demands more focus and a much more streamlined narrative, and the screenplay needs to be brave enough to compact the story down to a suitable screen experience, as Angels And Demons more successfully demonstrated.

The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets' Nest is the least action-oriented and most talkative of the three movies. This is not a bad thing: it brings the story of Lisbeth down to a real nitty-gritty of hospitalization, treatment, and law courts, and a bit away from any further dramatic rapes, tortures and murders for the poor girl to suffer through.

But with so much plot to chew and digest, director Daniel Alfredson has no time for anything else. The stylish coolness and tension of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is long gone, replaced by the most straightforward of narrative driven films, hacking away at the intertwined overgrowth of characters in a sweaty rush to reach the conclusion.

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