The third and final story of Stieg Larsson's trilogy picks up directly after the second episode: After putting an ax in her father's head, and being shot and buried alive by her half-brother, enigmatic hacker Lisbeth is recovering in the hospital, as police line up charges against her. But crusading journalist Mikael (Michael Nyqvist) knows enough about Lisbeth's horrifying childhood to start assembling the complete and heretofore hidden history, which he hopes will absolve her of recent transgressions. But will the deeply guarded Lisbeth cooperate?
This last book of the trilogy was easily the densest for readers, with digressions into Swedish government and politics. Fortunately, in Daniel Alfredson's film, much of this arcane background has been reduced to a simple plot device: a shadowy intra-government group that conspired against Lisbeth in order to protect both an asset and its own murky dealings. (Also dropped, a lengthy subplot about a newspaper.) Thus, the majority of Hornet's Nest is a straightforward procedural, as Mikael connects the dots and Lisbeth prepares for her showdown in court. The exposition is occasionally rushed, but seasoned viewers should be able to keep pace. (However, having read the books or seen the first two films is essential.)
Once again, Noomi Rapace portrays Lisbeth, and Hornet's Nest really showcases what a riveting actress she is: Lisbeth spends most of the film lying in bed, and her few utterances are monosyllabic or monotonic. Yet, we always feel the coiled intensity of Lisbeth, fueled by her frustrations and mitigated by her fierce intelligence. When justice comes at last for Lisbeth, it's not merely a physical liberation from institutions, but a freeing of her soul. Mikael has been invaluable to be sure, but it's Lisbeth who gains the strength to turn the final key. In Swedish, with subtitles. Manor