First, let's get something straight: If you're unfamiliar with the franchise, you should see the first two films before you see the third. Hornet's Nest picks up immediately after its predecessor, The Girl Who Played with Fire, as the damaged-goods hacker Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace) is being airlifted to the hospital after her climactic showdown with Zalachenko (Georgi Staykov) and the blonde giant Niedermann (Micke Spreitz). Zalachenko is also in rough shape, while Niedermann escaped and is on the loose. Lisbeth is facing some long odds—she has a bullet in her head, she's facing attempted-murder charges and there's a conspiracy afoot, consisting of old, white men hoping to have her committed to the care of Dr. Peter Teleborian (Anders Ahlbom), the rogue psychotherapist who's as responsible for Lisbeth's mental state as anyone, in the hopes of keeping her quiet.
What she does have going for her, however, is investigative journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist), who gets to work with his colleagues at Millennium magazine to prove her innocence and even provides his own pregnant sister, Annika (Annika Hallin), to serve as Lisbeth's attorney. So, she's in custody, and he's out on the street— therefore, there's almost no interaction between Lisbeth and Mikael in the film, and the dynamic between them, which made the first film, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, so enjoyable, is lacking.
The fiendish plots that lurk behind the scenes in Hornet's Nest aren't particularly intriguing. And the action scenes are tame. But these may just be cultural comparisons. Sweden is, after all, a relatively nonviolent country. Here in the U.S., we can channel-surf through murders committed and solved several times a night on almost any day of the week. Our fictional conspiracies are considerably more far-reaching, too—we're more interested in overthrowing a government, assassinating a president or keeping alien technology under wraps than we are in the efforts of a bunch of aging secret agents to keep some secrets secret. And it has to be said that much of the late-breaking evidence in The Girl Who Kicked the hornet's Nest wouldn't be admissible on any Law & Order, even the new one.
So, what's the deal, then? Why does the NPR set go nuts for what is essentially a series of well-written James Patterson novels? That's easy. The reason the trilogy's final film works—indeed, the reason all of Millennium works—is that the character is just so damned interesting, and Noomi Rapace has made her satisfyingly flesh-and-blood.
We sympathize as we watch her go through the horrors she endures, and it's painful to watch her make terrible choices and be so nasty to the people trying to help her. She's so broken inside that she's often her own worst obstacle. And, yet, she's wildly charismatic, and she's someone who has answers for everything, who thinks quicker and smarter and more outside-the-box than the rest of us.
The hardest part to watch in The Girl Who Kicked the hornet's Nest has nothing to do with violence or violation at all—it's when Lisbeth realizes she must say thank you. The story of The Girl Who Kicked the hornet's Nest may not stay with you, but Lisbeth Salander most certainly will.