REVIEW: THE GIRL WHO KICKED THE HORNET’S NEST

CAST

Noomi Rapace (Prometheus)
Michael Nyqvist (John Wick)
Lena Endre (The Master)
Georgi Staykov (Mission London)
Annika Hallin (Glowing Stars)
Per Oscarsson (Midsommer)

The film begins at the conclusion of the The Girl Who Played with Fire. Salander is airlifted to a hospital in Gothenburg, to recover from gunshot wounds inflicted by her father, Zala. She is cared for by Dr. Anders Jonasson, who prevents anyone except Annika Giannini, her lawyer, from visiting.

At the same time, Evert Gullberg and Fredrik Clinton, old colleagues from the “Section,” a group within the Swedish Security Service, reconnect and decide that they must silence Zalachenko and Salander to preserve cold-war secrets. Zalachenko is still alive, in a hospital room down the hall from Salander. Gullberg arrives at the hospital at the same time as Giannini, proceeds to Zalachenko’s room, and shoots him dead. Giannini saves Salander by barricading the door to Salander’s room. Gullberg, unable to reach Salander, shoots himself. Clinton visits psychiatrist Dr. Peter Teleborian, and explains his plan to silence Salander by having her committed to St. Stephen’s mental hospital again. Dr. Teleborian tries to meet with Salander to conduct a psychological evaluation, but is obstructed by her doctor, Dr. Jonasson.

Blomkvist persuades Dr. Jonasson to sneak an internet phone (a Sony Ericsson Xperia X1 in the film) into Salander’s room, whereupon Salander immediately contacts her fellow hacker, Plague, to see if he can find something on Dr. Teleborian. She then tells Blomkvist that Giannini has permission to use a video showing Nils Bjurman in the act of raping her. Bjurman was her state-appointed guardian and one of the people she is accused of murdering. Blomkvist compels a civil servant, Bertil Janeryd, to reveal that Gullberg and Rottinger had visited the Prime Minister years ago to urge a cover-up of the Zalachenko affair. Salander starts working on an autobiography to document her actions and motives from childhood to the present. She continues to have nightmares of memories about her time at St. Stephen’s, her father and half-brother, and of her two-hour ordeal with Bjurman. Blomkvist continues to pursue Dr. Teleborian with Christer’s help. Salander finishes her autobiography and e-mails it to Blomkvist, and Dr. Jonasson informs Lisbeth she cannot remain at the hospital, but must be transferred to prison in a few days. He is surprised that she is not worried about the trial.

Niedermann, who previously tried to kill Salander’s lover Miriam, has remained a fugitive, wanted for killing a police officer. Sonny, of the outlaw motorcycle gang from the previous film, is informed that he was searched, but found clean, and that his friend had sent Niedermann to hide out in his home. There, he finds his brother dead and his girlfriend tied, gagged, and apparently assaulted. She tells him that Niedermann was the culprit, and Sonny vows revenge. Clinton, in dialysis, is given a copy of Salander’s autobiography, and is told that none of it can be proven. Meanwhile, Berger has been receiving anonymous e-mail threats, which causes an uproar in the office. In prison, Salander is interrogated by the prosecutor, but says nothing. Giannini is later given Salander’s computer and the DVD of her sexual abuse. Niedermann breaks into an abandoned warehouse and kills a bicyclist who happens to be there having his lunch. Dr. Teleborian finally meets with Salander, who again remains silent. When Berger’s bedroom window is smashed, she calls Milton Security. Thanks to surveillance by Milton Security, Blomkvist learns that someone that night broke into his apartment and planted cocaine and cash there. He concludes that the Section are trying to frame him, since they cannot hurt the Millennium magazine itself. Blomkvist decides to meet Berger at a restaurant named “Samir’s Gryta.” The police try to warn Berger of an attempt to kill them there, and Blomkvist fends off the assault as the police rush to the restaurant. The Section becomes dismayed upon learning of the failed attempt.

On the day of her murder trial, Salander finally sheds her hospital-patient persona and enters court with piercings, a mohawk hairstyle, black makeup, and expensive black leather clothing. Called as an expert witness for the prosecution, Dr. Teleborian characterizes Salander’s autobiography as merely the product of her paranoid delusions. Giannini gradually demolishes Dr. Teleborian’s credibility, using Salander’s words and files from the hospital. She shows the video proving Bjurman raped Salander.

As Giannini presents her case, the police arrest the people involved with the Section and seize their place of operation. Called to the stand, Blomkvist shows that Dr. Teleborian had written his final psychiatric evaluation of Salander after being denied access by her doctor. Then Giannini calls Edklinth to the stand, and he states that the opinions were formulated in cooperation with Jonas Sandberg, using his computer as proof. Dr. Teleborian is left speechless. Edklinth tells Dr. Teleborian he is to be arrested on charges of possessing over 8,000 items of child pornography (which Plague had discovered after hacking into his laptop), and his computer is seized as evidence. After Dr. Teleborian is arrested, the court rules that no further need exists for Salander to be held in police custody.
The Millennium staff celebrate their victory, as Erika returns and reconciles with Mikael. Salander is encouraged by Giannini to check the property she has inherited from Zala and discovers the warehouse where Niedermann was hiding. Niedermann attempts to trap her there and kill her, but she is too fast and clever for that. She ambushes him with a nail gun and attaches Niedermann’s feet to the wooden platform on which he is standing. His inability to feel pain finally works against him. By the time he realizes what is happening, it is too late for him to escape. She considers nailing him in the head, but instead phones Sonny and tells the bikers where to find him. Then she calls the police. Salander returns home, and Blomkvist briefly visits to tell her that the motorcycle gang killed Niedermann and were arrested at the warehouse afterwards. Lisbeth and Mikael have a brief conversation that might or might not be a prelude to a further relationship.The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets Nest provides a cracking closure and gives you exactly what you want in style.

REVIEW: THE GIRL WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE

CAST

Noomi Rapace (Prometheus)
Michael Nyqvist (John Wick)
Lena Endre (The Master)
Peter Andersson (Underworld Blood Wars)
Per Oscarsson (Midsommer)
Georgi Staykov (Mission London)
Annika Hallin (Glowing Stars)
Tanja Lorentzon (Wallander)

Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace) purchases an apartment in Stockholm. On returning to Sweden after nearly a year living abroad, Salander reconnects with her former lover Miriam Wu (Yasmine Garbi) and offers her free use of her previous home in return for forwarding her mail. Later, Salander confronts Nils Bjurman (Peter Andersson) after hacking into his mail and discovering he has an appointment booked with a tattoo removal specialist. Threatening him with his own gun, she warns him not to remove the tattoo that she etched on his abdomen as revenge for sexually abusing her, marking him as “a pervert, a rapist and a sadistic pig.”

Millennium magazine welcomes Dag Svensson (Hans Christian Thulin), a new journalist who is writing an exposé on prostitution and human trafficking in Sweden. Dag’s girlfriend, Mia Bergman, is writing her doctoral thesis on sex trafficking. Dag is nearly finished with the story and is confronting those who will be exposed by the article. Dag and his girlfriend are about to leave on a holiday and ask Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist) to come to his apartment and collect some photographs. At the same time Dag also asks Mikael to inquire about someone called “Zala,” who may have a connection to his present research. Mikael arrives at their apartment late at night to collect photographs for the article but finds the two sources lying dead. The murder weapon is tracked to Bjurman who is also deceased. Lisbeth Salander is the prime suspect, as her fingerprints happen to be on the gun as well. Salander tells Blomkvist that she did not kill anyone and that he needs to find the mysterious “Zala.”

In an effort to find Lisbeth’s residence, Mikael contacts her boxing trainer and friend, Paolo Roberto. While he is unaware of Salander’s whereabouts, Paolo does know Miriam, who also trained with them, and promises to pay her a visit. Near her apartment, Paolo witnesses Miriam being kidnapped by strongman Niedermann. Paolo follows his car to a deserted barn, where he hears him beat Miriam for information about Salander. Paolo comes in to rescue her but Niedermann is more than a match for the skilled boxer. Niedermann sets the barn aflame to finish the job, but the two manage to escape.

News breaks of the attack and Paolo gives his account to the police. After Blomkvist leaves information he has discovered about the case on his computer for Salander to hack into and read, she leaves a message to him saying, “Thank you for being my friend.” He realizes that she intends to set out alone to find the man who framed her and that she may not survive. A disguised Salander visits Miriam in hospital to apologize for getting her involved. Without giving anything away, Salander confirms the police sketch of Niedermann with Miriam and then disappears. Knowing now that he is Salander’s friend, Miriam calls Blomkvist to the hospital to give him keys that Lisbeth accidentally dropped during her visit. Noticing that one of them is for a post office box, Mikael is able to access and read Salander’s mail and locate her apartment. Meanwhile, Salander continues her efforts to find Niedermann by patiently staking out his post office box. She eventually sees someone retrieve his mail and follows him to a small house near Gosseberga. Researching through the material in Lisbeth’s apartment Blomkvist finds the video of Bjurman raping Salander.

In the offices of Millennium magazine, Paolo explains he tracked down Niedermann and learned that he has congenital analgesia which makes him doubly formidable because he cannot feel pain. They trace Niedermann to a company owned by “Karl Axel Bodin.” Blomkvist has Erika Berger make copies of the documents including the 1993 police report, forwards the originals to Bublanski and sets out to find Salander. Salander crosses the grounds and enters the Gosseberga house, but Niedermann has been alerted by motion detectors and knocks her out. She awakens to see her father, Alexander Zalachenko, an old man who walks with a stick and is heavily scarred by the burns she inflicted as a child. He dismisses her mother (who is now dead) as a whore and belittles her rape at the hands of Bjurman. He reveals that Niedermann is her half-brother. Niedermann killed Bjurman to prevent him from revealing any of Zalachenko’s secrets. Zalachenko is confident he will not be caught, since being an invalid means the idea of his involvement in the murders lacks plausibility.

They lead Lisbeth to a shallow grave in the woods. She tells him the police will find him soon and all that he has said has been published online through her hidden cellphone. Seeing through her bluff, he shoots Lisbeth at close range several times as she attempts to escape and buries her alive. Left for dead, Salander digs her way out using her silver-plated cigarette case gifted to her by Wu. Hidden in the woodshed, she surprises Zalachenko with an axe. She then keeps Niedermann at bay, both with Zalachenko’s gun and Niedermann’s delusions, just as Blomkvist comes coasting up the driveway. Ambulances and police arrive to take away Salander and Zalachenko who are both very badly injured.The Girl Who Played With Fire doesn’t have the spark of the first movie, but it still has an electric brilliance and scathing social exploration.

REVIEW: THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO (2009)

CAST

Noomi Rapace (Prometheus)
Michael Nyqvist (John Wick)
Lena Endre (The Master)
Sven-Bertil Taube (London Voodoo)
Peter Haber (Beck)
Peter Andersson (Underworld Blood Wars)
Marika Lagercrantz (All Things Fair)
Ingvar Hirdwall(Mouth To Mouth)
Björn Granath (The Ox)

In December 2002, Mikael Blomkvist, publisher of Millennium magazine, loses a libel case involving allegations he published about billionaire financier Hans-Erik Wennerström. He is sentenced to three months in prison and a hefty fine. Lisbeth Salander, a brilliant but damaged surveillance agent and hacker, is hired by Henrik Vanger, the patriarch of the wealthy Vanger family, to investigate Blomkvist. Vanger then hires Blomkvist to investigate the disappearance of his niece, Harriet, who vanished on Children’s Day in 1966. Vanger believes that Harriet was murdered by a family member.

Salander, who was ruled mentally incompetent as a child, is appointed a new legal guardian, Nils Bjurman, after her previous guardian suffers a stroke. Bjurman, a sexual sadist, forces Salander to perform fellatio on him in return for the money she needs to buy a new computer; he withholds the full amount she has requested. At her next meeting with Bjurman, he beats and rapes her. Having used a hidden camera to record Bjurman raping her, Salander returns to take her revenge, torturing and threatening to ruin him unless he gives her full control of her life and finances. She then uses a tattoo gun to brand Bjurman’s abdomen with the message “I am a sadist pig and a rapist”.
Noomi Rapace in Män som hatar kvinnor (2009)
Blomkvist moves to a cottage on the Vanger estate and meets the Vanger family, including Harriet’s brother Martin and cousin Cecilia. Inside Harriet’s diary, he finds a list of five names alongside what might appear to be phone numbers. He visits retired police inspector Morell, who informs him that his investigation team had been unable to decipher them. After viewing photographs taken during the Children’s Day parade, Blomkvist sees Harriet’s facial expression change suddenly just before she leaves and, after obtaining photographs taken from the same side of the street as her, comes to believe that Harriet may have seen her murderer that day.
Noomi Rapace in Män som hatar kvinnor (2009)
Using her access to Blomkvist’s computer, Salander learns that the numbers in Harriet’s diary are references to verses in the Book of Leviticus and emails Blomkvist anonymously. Blomkvist works out that Salander sent the mail and hires her as a research assistant. Together, Blomkvist and Salander connect all but one of the names on Harriet’s list to murdered women. They are all Jewish names, which intrigues Blomkvist, as the Vanger family has a long history of antisemitism. During the investigation, Blomkvist and Salander become lovers.

They suspect Henrik’s reclusive brother Harald to be the murderer, as the two other Vanger brothers had already died by the time Harriet disappeared. Salander searches through Vanger’s business records to trace Harald to the crime scenes, while Blomkvist breaks into Harald’s house, believing it to be unoccupied. When Harald attacks Blomkvist, Martin appears and saves him. He escorts Blomkvist to his home, where Blomkvist reveals what he and Salander have uncovered. Martin drugs him. Salander’s search of the company accounts points to Martin and his late father, Gottfried, having been jointly responsible for the murders. She returns to the cottage to find Blomkvist missing. Blomkvist wakes to find himself bound in Martin’s cellar. Martin boasts about raping and murdering women for decades but denies killing Harriet, insisting that she disappeared. As Martin is in the process of hanging Blomkvist, Salander appears and attacks Martin with a golf club. While she frees Blomkvist, Martin flees in his car. Salander gives chase on her motorcycle. When Martin drives off the road, Salander finds him still alive but trapped in the vehicle. As the car goes up in flames, she makes no attempt to save him.
Noomi Rapace in Män som hatar kvinnor (2009)Blomkvist realizes that Cecilia’s late sister Anita was the near-double of Harriet and that some of the film taken on the day of Harriet’s disappearance show Anita, not Harriet as previously thought. Blomkvist and Salander discover that Harriet has been using Anita’s name and is still alive in Australia. Blomkvist flies there to look for her, and he persuades her to return to Sweden, where she is reunited with her uncle. Harriet explains the truth about her disappearance: that her father and her brother had repeatedly raped her; that she killed her father by drowning him, only to find herself being blackmailed by Martin; and that her cousin Anita had smuggled her away from the island.

Salander’s mother, living in a nursing home, apologizes for not choosing a “better papa” for her. Salander then visits Blomkvist in prison and gives him new information on the Wennerström case. After his release, Blomkvist publishes a new story on Wennerström in Millennium, which ruins Wennerström and makes the magazine a national sensation. Wennerström is then found dead, a presumed suicide. His offshore bank account in the Cayman Islands is raided; the police suspect a young woman caught on CCTV, whom Blomkvist recognizes as Salander in disguise. The film ends with Salander, dressed very smartly as she exits her car, walking along a sunny beach promenade.This is a highly effective thriller, one of the darkest and most exciting I’ve ever seen. The story in itself is no better than those laid out in dozens of other thrillers or whodunnits, but it is beautifully, virtually flawlessly realized. A must-see.