For this third and final installment of the Millennium Trilogy, Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace) is forced to confront her unusual and traumatic past in a way different from her expected routine. Normally, violence committed against her is matched with an act as equally violent and aggressive as the one that ignites her rage. We've seen her emasculate a sadistic social worker in our initial introduction of the girl with the dragon tattoo, and she defies the law in the second movie as she hunts the man responsible for ruining her life. In 'The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest,' we move from the action of vigilante street justice to the thrilling suspense of the courtroom, where hopefully, our gothic punk-rocker heroine will finally be given true justice.
Daniel Alfredson returns to the director's chair after being brought on for 'The Girl Who Played with Fire.' Afterwards, he worked on the TV series 'Millennium,' based on this film trilogy, in Sweden. But that was last spring, and I'm not sure the show is still on air. It would be interesting to see where filmmakers take the storyline without the guidance of its creator, Stieg Larsson, especially after the rather ambiguous conclusion fans are left with. As before, Alfredson does a fine job behind the camera, building and maintaining suspenseful tension while moving the plot speedily along. The only issue with the blink-and-you'll-miss-it pace is that audiences are given little time to digest clues, information and a whole host of new characters. It's not really a drawback since it adds to the story's thriller aspect, but one definitely has to follow along very carefully.
'The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest' is a combination of investigative reporting, with Michael Nyqvist reprising his role as Lisbeth's loyal friend, and a court procedural, which sees Lisbeth defending her innocence and cleverly fighting for a new social status. Using the help of Erika Berger (Lena Endre) and their political magazine, Mikael (Nyqvist) uncovers a secret society associated with Lisbeth's father and with ties to Sweden's former government — a conspiracy plot working overtime to silence her. As evidence is gathered and Mikael finds himself partnered with officials looking to prosecute the shrouded group, the reporter seeks the help of his sister (Sofia Ledarp) to assist in the courtroom. Nyqvist is not given much to work with aside from fact-finding and struggling a machine gun from a Bosnian sharpshooter, but he's good at holding together the first half of the film.
The main attraction of the trilogy, of course, is the lovely Noomi Rapace as the quick-tempered and feisty Lisbeth. She spends a good chunk of the movie lying in a hospital bed, recovering from the injuries inflicted during the previous picture. While performing some exercise routines and dealing with a very attentive young doctor, our hacker heroine is seen working on her phone, preparing for the greatest battle of her life — working within the system. As in the earlier films, Rapace is brilliant and utterly convincing in her portrayal, strangely winning us over with an off-putting attitude meant to hide an emotionally distraught and deeply pained little girl. By the time we reach her hearing, where she faces charges of murder, we watch in amazement as she walks into the room in her punk rock regalia. Rapace actually has us cheering and applauding her brazenness and strong will to fight the system that abandoned her as a child.
Although it takes a while to really get at the meat of this crime thriller, Daniel Alfredson delivers a highly entertaining finale to a series that has taken the world over. Based on the third book of Stieg Larsson's Millennium Trilogy, 'The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest' is a satisfying conclusion as a conspiracy drama that has the victim's vengeance justly earned and keeps viewers on edge.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Music Box Films brings 'The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest' to Blu-ray on a Region Free, BD25 disc, housed in the standard blue keepcase. At start-up, viewers are greeted with a series of skippable trailers before being asked if they wish to watch the film with its original Swedish language or the English dub.
Much like its predecessor, 'The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest' arrives on Blu-ray with an average 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode (1.85:1).
On the whole, the picture is free of any visible artifacts, with a very fine layer of grain throughout, but it's also a bit underwhelming for a new release. While contrast is comfortably bright and crisp, black levels are stable and accurate. But during poorly-lit scenes, shadows details tend to be somewhat obscured by the surrounding darkness. Colors are bright and cleanly rendered, with a stronger emphasis on greens and reds. Flesh tones are appropriate to the climate and appear natural. The only small drawback is with resolution and sharpness. The transfer shows great clarity, but definition lacks anything striking or distinct. Only in close-up can we finally make out the fine texture of faces and clothing. And even then, it's nothing to write home about.
Overall, it's not a bad presentation, but it won't impress anyone either.
Once again, the studio sees fit to only include a legacy Dolby Digital soundtrack for this third installment to the Millennium Trilogy.
Much like the video, it's not all that bad in its own right, delivering strong, well-prioritized vocals in the middle of the screen. But the lossy mix also feels rather retrained to the center and is noticeably limited during the few action sequences. Despite being a dialogue-driven film, the audio lacks any acoustical presence and rarely opens up into the rest of the soundstage. While bass is fairly deep and forceful in required scenes, the track exhibits a bland mid-range, which clips and flattens at higher frequencies. Added to that, the volume suddenly jumps decibels with discrete effects in the rears coming off too loud and distracting, overwhelming other aspects of the design.
In the end, the audio for 'The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest' is rather disappointing but tolerable.
Music Box Films offers 'The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest' on Blu-ray with a hugely inferior collection of bonus features.
For the third and final installment of the Millennium Trilogy, Daniel Alfredson delivers a suspenseful crime thriller that sees the punk rock heroine finding justice. 'The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest' is a satisfying conclusion with another amazing performance by the lovely Noomi Rapace in her career defining role as Lisbeth Salander. The film debuts on Blu-ray with a middling video presentation and somewhat disappointing audio quality. The bonus material offered by the studio is even more depressing, making the overall package an average offering from Music Box Films.
Portions of this review also appear in our coverage of Dunkirk on Blu-ray. This post features unique Vital Disc Stats, Video, and Final Thoughts sections.