Monday, December 12, 2011

Thrilling x 3: The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest (Swedish version)

Facile horror and comedy franchises aside (just think "Saw") three seems to be the ideal number of instalments for extended feature film stories. Of course, author Stieg Larsson died shortly after submitting the three manuscripts that make up this series and, although all manner of reports are swirling in relation to the existence of a fourth, we're not likely to see anything develop in that direction for now.

So, on to film #3 and, after a minor slip in the second film (a matter of personal taste, really), this concluding chapter is a marvel of restraint and unfeigned intensity. After the ugly confrontation with her father that ended the previous instalment, Lisbeth Salander finds herself in hospital, having had a bullet removed from her skull, set to stand trial in connection with the murders of three people (including her abusive former guardian) and - worst of all - a few doors down from her father, whose head she attempted to cleave open with an axe.

A heady mix, to be sure and director Daniel Alfredson and new writer Ulf Ryberg walk the line between thriller and psycho-drama with surgical skill. Not ot give th ending away, and we have other matters in between, but the final denouement has just the merest shade of Francis ford Coppola's "Godfather" trilogy; multiple scenes cut together to "tie-up" the narrative, but done without confusing the viewer (even if you're watching subtitiles).

Her uneasy alliance with investigative journalist Mikael Blomkvist continues, and its Blomkvist who supplies the legal help, in the form of his sister Annika (played with a disarming lightness by Annika Hallin).  Other than Blomkvist, there are precious few empathetic male characters; the Swedish Secret Police, the upper echelons of the regular police force, and a celebrity psychiatrist, peter Teleborian are all arrayed against Lisbeth. But of course, these entities and individuals all have skeletons in their respective closets, and those are largely displayed in a masterful courtroom sequence, which forms the centrepiece of the movie, with Annika an initially reluctant advocate and Salander in all her taciturn punk glory (and in the look which the producers of the Hollywood take-off adapted for star Rooney Mara).

Thankfully, the Swedish producers recognize that the end doesn't mean the clinical resolution of all issues and the series closes with its almost trademark image of the Stockholm skyline at dusk - gleaming and serene, yet darkly mysterious. whether or not  #4 is in the offing, this is really the only end that could do.


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