Cambridge Film Festival Review: The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest (Luftslottet som sprängdes)

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The Pitch: One Angry Woman.

The Review: The Millennium trilogy has undoubtedly been a publishing sensation, but with the general public’s reticence to watch anything with subtitles, we’ll only truly know once David Fincher’s Dragon Tatto movie has been released if there is the potential for a movie version of these stories to truly connect with a global audience. What we have here, though, is a chance to at least assess the originals in their completed form. Niels Arden Oplev’s version of Dragon Tattoo was an original and compelling piece of work, but Daniel Alfredson’s The Girl Who Played With Fire was less successful, betraying its TV origins when the first movie felt cinematic and also feeling weaker in terms of story and construction.

Despite also originally being produced for Swedish TV, Hornet’s Nest bests the previous film in both areas, having more momentum and energy as well as feeling more rounded. The fact that it starts to tie some of the threads together from the previous two no doubt helps with that, but there’s some narrative shuffling at the beginning which only serves to raise the stakes. In a way this is odd; Dragon Tattoo felt self-contained, and the natural assumption would have been that its sequels would have seen Salander and Blomkvist continue to team up to get to the bottom of crimes, like a half-punk, half middle-aged Scooby Doo, but actually what we’ve had is three variations of tone and concept as part of the same over-arcing story.

The first movie was absolutely a detective story, and the second was more a thriller than anything else. This final chapter retains elements of the thriller, arguably implementing them more effectively this time around, but at the core is a courtroom drama. I don’t wish to give too much away as there are narrative threads running throughout the trilogy, but it’s Lisbeth’s story that is the focus and the repercussions that spread out more like shock waves than ripples. Noomi Rapace has been outstanding throughout the trilogy and that’s no different here; starting out beaten and withdrawn, but actually still the same old Salander beneath the façade.

Michael Nyqvist probably carries more of the story in this episode than in the earlier outings, and Lena Endre’s Erika Berger also comes more to the fore. Again, the acting from the supporting roles is pretty faultless, although it’s still Rapace that stands out. Aldredson’s direction is a little more efficient here, although it’s still not at the level of the first movie, but all in all this is a fitting conclusion to the trilogy and it’s only the middle which is the slightly weak link. David Fincher, the bar has been set.

Why see it at the cinema: If you’ve seen the first two at the cinema, then you should absolutely make the effort for the third. Even if you somehow caught the others by other means (and shame on you if that was the case), then this is still worth the trip out, especially for the higher tempo parts which benefit from freeing themselves from their TV confines.

The Score: 8/10

Review: The Girl Who Played With Fire (Flickan som lekte med elden)

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The Pitch: The Girl Who Wouldn’t Let It Lie.

The Review: Normally a movie these days will generate sequel expectations if the box office is strong enough, but it’s rare that trilogies are presented in a ready-made form. Here, though, is the second part of the book sensation that has been the Millennium trilogy, originally intended for TV transmission but finding its way into cinemas, as will the final part in a few months. The first was the compelling tale of how two mismatched characters, Mikael Blomqvist and Lisbeth Salander, were brought together. So naturally, the second story does its best to keep them apart.

Remember Nils Bjurman from Dragon Tattoo? (Actually, if you don’t, now is the time to dig out the DVD, as there’s no recap and your knowledge of the original is heavily assumed.) The plot thread regarding Lisbeth’s guardian felt resolved in the original, but is used here in a sensible fashion as a catalyst for the second chapter’s events, which revolve around Lisbeth in ever decreasing circles. Despite being separated, there’s still a strong sense of the two working towards a common goal, as Blomqvist has ties to some of the murder victims and Salander is implicated in the murders and works her usual unconventional methods in an attempt to clear her name.

Michael Nyqvist and Noomi Rapace are among the cast and crew returning from the first movie, and while familiarity doesn’t exactly breed contempt, the central actors occasionally feel a little too easy in their roles this time around, without quite the same level of performances. How much of that can be put at the door of replacement director Daniel Alfredson, who replaces the original’s Niels Arden Oplev in the only major production member change? There is no doubt that Oplev applied not only a cinematic sheen to Dragon Tattoo, but also made the most of the Swedish locations, and for whatever reason Alfredson has lost a lot of that feel, but also some of the dynamism and freshness that caused the first to stand out from the crowd. There’s also slightly less subtlety with some of the staging; for example, the dragon tattoo itself gets more of an airing here than it ever did in the first, just in case you have for a few moments forgotten what you’re watching.

It’s Stieg Larsson’s story that’s at the heart of the movie, though, and for the most part the material keeps things going at a good lick. Despite his slight failings, Alfredson’s pacing doesn’t give you time to dwell too much on the plot, which is slightly simpler than the original and as such not quite as satisfying, although it does have the advantage of avoiding Dragon’s extended coda at the end. Unfortunately, the final act is where the implausibilities of the story start to creep in and mount, with allusions to another middle-of-trilogy movie, not least in that the wrap up isn’t as tidy here in an effort to draw you in for the final chapter. One can only hope that the conclusion is a little more cinematic and also returns to the feel of the beginning of the trilogy.

Why see it at the cinema: There’s a nice shot of a barn on fire, but other than that it’s painfully obvious this was intended for TV and not the big screen, unlike its predecessor which benefited extensively from a larger viewing area. But if you’re a fan, it’s worth the trip – just.

The Score: 6/10