Dec 10, 2010

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest [15]

Reviews of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and The Girl Who Played With Fire can be found HERE and HERE

Dir: Daniel Alfredson
And so the big movie event of the year comes to a close, not with a bang but with a whimper, with a film so forgettable and inconsequential that it may as well be merely an expulsion of air. It’s a real shame, but I can’t say I didn’t see it coming. Stieg Larsson’s final (completed) Millennium novel is a doorstop; a huge beast of a book filled with a rambling, ranty, mass of detail and freely mixing a little fact with increasingly outlandish fiction. It’s also incredibly static. On the page that’s not entirely ineffective; Lisbeth Salander (played again by the extraordinary Noomi Rapace), confined to a hospital bed, unable to do much of anything in her own cause (which, this time out, involves a trial for attempted murder that could see her committed), is a somewhat effective counterpoint to the fierce, active, character of the first two books. Unfortunately, translated to the screen, it’s often – like much of the rest of the book - just dull.

For what seems like an eternity (the cut down cinema release is 147 minutes long) nothing happens. Endless screen time is filled with Mikael Blomkvist’s meetings at Millennium, with meetings at ‘The Section’, a shadowy institution which has been conspiring against Salander; with Salander lying in bed and barely speaking and, as ever in this series, with people typing. Because the book has had to be reduced so much the narrative will be largely lost on those who haven’t done their homework, and for those that have the mass of connection and detail is reduced to a series of brief scenes of people we’ve never met before sitting in chairs and explaining the plot to one another. For much of the middle section of the film scene after scene after scene seems to reveal yet ANOTHER new character, who’ll pop up for a scene or two, explain something, and then never be seen again, but the problem is we already know what happened to Salander, it’s been obvious since The Girl Who Played With Fire, so it feels like the movie is spending two hours putting together a 1000 piece jigsaw of a blank wall.

Even when we get to the set pieces - the attempt on Lisbeth’s life at the hospital, the attack at Erika Berger’s (Lena Endre) home - director Daniel Alfredson fumbles the ball. The hospital sequence, in particular, lacks any suspense, feeling tossed off and perfunctory. The same is true of the courtroom set third act. This should be the great dramatic dénouement but, in spite of a fine performance from Annika Hallin as Lisbeth’s lawyer (also Blomkvist’s sister) and the customary excellence of Rapace’ quieter, but still forceful, turn it just doesn’t work. The delivery of the material is flat, yet the other performances run towards the hammy (Anders Ahlbom as Dr. Teleborian is especially guilty here) and Alfredson’s matter of fact direction does nothing to energise the sequences. Where Neils Arden Oplev managed to truly adapt The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, making it a different but equally valid telling of Larsson’s story for cinema, Daniel Alfredson has only managed to put some bits of the books on screen. This is an inert film, were it not for Rapace and a handful of other performers (Nyqvist, Hallinn, Endre) it would be totally worthless.

All this said, it’s hard to lay all the blame at Alfredson and writer Ulf Ryberg’s door. The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest doesn’t work as cinema, and it was never going to. As a novel it is neither claustrophobic enough to work as that kind of thriller nor expansive and exciting enough to work as a more action driven film, and by sidelining its most interesting character the book shot itself and this adaptation in the foot from the start.

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