The third and final part of Swedish journalist Stieg Larsson's 'Millennium' trilogy has been adapted for the big screen and is a sluggish but clever culmination of the adult-themed, anti-misogyny thrillers.
'The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest' begins with a critically injured and heavily guarded Lisbeth Salander (Rapace) in hospital. She faces a daunting recovery following the violent end of 'The Girl Who Played with Fire', where an explosive shoot-out left her clawing for her life. However, her physical recovery is nothing when compared to her battle for justice - something that has eluded her until now.
'Father' is too generous a description but the violent, psychopathic Russian defector Zalachenko (Staykov) is also fighting for his life, only a couple of rooms down the corridor from Lisbeth. Her relentless half-brother, Niedermann (Spreitz), is lurking dangerously nearby and the two are as eager as ever to resume their twisted Greek Tragedy roles and end Lisbeth's life - quickly and painfully.
Larsson's books and the subsequent films have continuously shown the ill effects of political, sexual and psychological abuse and Salander is the constant, uncompromising vigilante who is willing to risk all to expose this corruption. However, in this concluding part she cannot succeed without the courage and talent of Millennium journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Nyqvist), who proves that, in the end, the pen is mightier than the sword.
Despite a slow start and a meandering plot with too many characters, plenty of gripping drama follows. Justice is served and fans are rewarded for their loyalty in a climactic courtroom scene, which builds generously without stereotypical Hollywood markers and enables Salander's reincarnation. The peril of judging people on their appearance alone is also made abundantly clear.
Having posthumously sold over 40 million copies of his books in more than 27 countries, there is a guaranteed audience for the film adaptations of Larsson's work. However, under the direction of Daniel Alfredson, older brother of the equally talented 'Let the Right One In' helmer Tomas, nothing is taken for granted. Rapace delivers another flawless turn, yet her screen time is curtailed by Lisbeth's hospitalisation and subsequent incarceration. Rapace is ably supported by Silver Hugo award winner Nyqvist as the activist fighting Liz' corner, although his disregard for colleagues and loved ones is a little cold, if not far-fetched.
It will come as little surprise to Larsson and Alfredson fans to hear that once again the fight scenes look real, the action looks real, the scared look scared and the threats are realistic. It has recently been discovered that anti-fascist activist Larsson helped train Eritrean guerrillas before his untimely death, so he knew a thing or two about combat.
David Fincher is currently repackaging Larsson's first book in the trilogy, 'The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo' - previously directed by Niels Arden Oplev - for the global market. His American-based version stars Daniel Craig and one of Fincher's 'The Social Network' students, Rooney Mara. While perhaps redundant for fans of the original, the relatively low box office return on subtitled films versus that of Hollywood remakes is most likely the raison d'être.
It will be interesting to see if the gifted 'Fight Club' director can inject much-needed pace while retaining the realism, morality, character depth and naturalistic action sequences that have put this Swedish trilogy on the cinematic map. It will also be difficult to imagine anyone other than Rapace in the lead role. But time will tell.
Although the film does jump in at the deep end, audiences can watch this as a standalone experience but will more than likely end up returning to the first movie.
After almost two-and-a-half hours (or seven if you count the whole trilogy), you are bound to pick up a bit of Swedish too and, in a word, 'Tack'.