A stirring end to a stirring series
By Michael O'Sullivan
Friday, October 29, 2010
A quick Swedish lesson: Tack (rhymes with "clock") means "thank you."
You don't necessarily need to know this before you see "The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest," the final, deeply satisfying conclusion to the trilogy of Swedish thrillers based on Stieg Larsson's bestselling novels. The word is spoken so many times that you'd probably pick it up yourself anyway just by listening to the dialogue.
The Swedish, apparently, are a very polite people.
There's one character, however, who isn't given to such niceties. Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace), the series's computer-hacker heroine and titular hornet's nest kicker, rarely says thank you to anyone.
Come to think of it, for most of the film, she doesn't say much of anything. That is not surprising, given her normally taciturn state, which is here compounded by the fact that movie No. 2 left her shot in three places and barely breathing. Lisbeth spends the entire first half of "Hornet's Nest" merely recuperating from her injuries and preparing to face a charge of attempted murder in the axing of her father (Georgi Staykov).
Yes, he's a bad man (and, at the start of "Hornet's Nest," very much alive). He has also been protected by many other bad men - members of what's known as the Section, a secret government cabal that will resort to threats and murder to protect Lisbeth's daddy, who has been involved in sex trafficking and other nasty business. This is the nest referred to in the title, and the wasps that Lisbeth has stirred up are now very, very angry.
She, of course, is a woman of action, not words, who would rather be out kicking something than licking her wounds in a hospital bed or sitting in a stuffy courtroom. So that part is a little frustrating this go-round, even though the frustration helps build up the film's delicious suspense. Will Lisbeth be convicted? Silenced by members of the Section? Or worse, killed by her half brother Ronald (Mikael Spreitz), whom loyal viewers will remember from "The Girl Who Played With Fire" as a murderous Frankenstein-like giant with a genetic abnormality that prevents him from feeling pain?
Talk about great, indelible characters.
And let's not forget Mikael (Michael Nyqvist). Lisbeth's investigative-journalist friend and sometime lover is himself hard at work behind the scenes throughout "Hornet's Nest," writing an expose of the Section, digging up evidence to help Lisbeth's court case and generally getting himself into trouble. Though he and Lisbeth barely connect, save for a recorded message he leaves on the smartphone he smuggles into her locked-down hospital room - that's like a dozen red roses for a hacker like her - they don't speak. That also contributes to the film's exquisite romantic tension.
Without spoiling the ending, it's safe to say that the tension is finally, if less than fully, released. Part of it happens in a wonderful scene toward the end of the movie where Mikael and Lisbeth face each other.
After such a long separation, it's excruciatingly awkward at first, but after a pause, Lisbeth turns to him and manages to pull out the words. "Thank you," she says, "for everything."
Ever the gentleman, Mikael replies, "Thank you."
To which longtime followers of this wonderfully sewn-up series will probably be tempted to say, "No, thank you both."
Contains violence, obscenity and sexual themes. In Swedish with English subtitles.