Books-to-movie series comes to its stomach-knotting end

When we last saw the enigmatic Lisbeth Salander (a mesmerizing Noomi Rapace), the hero of the Swedish crime thriller trilogy which began with The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, she was gravely wounded with three bullet wounds — including one in her skull.

Noomi Rapace in her role as Lisbeth Salander

Noomi Rapace in her role as Lisbeth Salander

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest

3 stars (out of 4)

Rated: 14A

When we last saw the enigmatic Lisbeth Salander (a mesmerizing Noomi Rapace), the hero of the Swedish crime thriller trilogy which began with The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, she was gravely wounded with three bullet wounds — including one in her skull.

As the final instalment, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest opens, the authorities are determined to prosecute her for the attempted murder of her father, a hideously scarred and deliciously evil Soviet spy/defector.

The dark forces which shielded him in part two, The Girl Who Played with Fire, are determined to shut her up for good and forever in a psychiatric institute. Her half-brother, a remorseless hulking monster, (played with mutely matter-of-fact menace by Micke Spreitz) is grimly determined to exact his own revenge.

And in the hospital where Lisbeth languishes under police guard, the chances of getting her hands on a cigarette are pretty much noll (that’s Swedish for zero).

Fans of the first two films in the series should settle in for a long, somewhat languorous conclusion, which clocks in at about 21/2 hours. The plot is complex — though not as relentlessly intricate and surprising as Part I — and since there are a host of characters, some old, some new, audiences may well find it helpful to refresh themselves on parts I and II.

Journalist Mikael Blomkvist, played once again to rugged, world-weary perfection by Michael Nyqvist, must once again ride to Lisbeth’s rescue against a shadowy group of Swedish secret service agents, known as The Section, who are determined to cover up past crimes and silence enemies.

The film, adapted from the trilogy of novels by late Swedish journalist Stieg Larsson, does have a couple of minor nagging inconsistencies and lacks the panoramic landscapes that were so effectively haunting in Dragon Tattoo. Both parts II and III are directed by Daniel Alfredson, which may have audiences longing for Niels Arden Oplev, who directed the first one with such deftness.

So it’s likely that those who found The Girl Who Played With Fire a tad underwhelming compared to Dragon Tattoo are likely to have the same reaction — only more so — to this one. But Alfredson does a game job of mastering the intricacy of the plot and characters even if his style is more languidly Nordic than that of his predecessor.

Like a bird in a gilded cage, the brown-eyed Lisbeth with her tattoos, piercings and punk sensibilities, is still fascinating to watch, even as she is given little to do, little to say and only a limited opportunity to demonstrate her impressively punishing physical skills.

Still, the film is steeped in stomach-knotting suspense throughout with a conclusion that is satisfying in part because it refuses to go the standard Hollywood-style route in terms of the violence integral to its denouement and the romance between the two main protagonists that remains resolutely unresolved.

Bruce Demara is a syndicated movie critic for The Toronto Star.

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