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Should I Watch..? 'The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets' Nest' (2009)

Benjamin is a former volunteer DJ at his local hospital radio station. He has been reviewing films online since 2004.

Teaser poster for the film

Teaser poster for the film

What's the big deal?

The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest is a crime thriller film released in 2009 and is the conclusion to the Millennium trilogy based on the books by Stieg Larsson. It is the sequel to The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo and The Girl Who Played With Fire and begins immediately after the end of the previous film with troubled hacker Lisbeth Salander being flown to hospital after almost being killed by her father, Soviet defector Alexander Zalachenko. The film stars Noomi Rapace, Michael Nyqvist, Lena Endre, Annika Hallin and Anders Ahlbom. It was filmed at the same time as the previous instalment and was later broadcast as part of a six-episode TV series. The film was released to a mixed reception from critics and went on to earn $43.5 million worldwide, despite receiving only a limited theatrical release in the US.


What's it about?

Professional hacker and multiple murder suspect Lisbeth Salander is airlifted to a hospital in Gothenburg after being shot and left for dead by her father, former Soviet defector and crime boss Alexander "Zala" Zalanchenko who is also hospitalised following Lisbeth's attack. Lisbeth's doctor Anders Jonasson is intrigued by his patient and despite the police and her former psychiatrist Dr Peter Teleborian eager to speak to her, Jonasson keeps Lisbeth in relative isolation. Only her lawyer, Annika Giannini, is allowed to see her at the request of her brother and Lisbeth's friend, investigative journalist Mikael Blomkvist.

With the mysterious "Section" at the risk of exposure from Blomkvist's magazine, former "Section" chiefs Evert Gullberg and Fredrik Clinton decide to act decisively to protect themselves. Agreeing that Lisbeth and Zalachenko must be silenced, plans are put into place to kill both of them while discrediting Blomkvist and threatening his colleagues at Millennium. And of course, Zalachenko's blonde henchman and Lisbeth's half-brother Ronald Niedermann is still on the loose and is seeking Lisbeth to settle his own scores...


What's to like?

Once again, Rapace steals the show as the captivating Salander although this film shows us a different side to her personality than before. The previous film, she was the vengeful hunter tracking down her enemies and using whatever methods she felt like to discover the truth. Here, she is much more vulnerable than before but still with that icy cool calmness, that inner core of strength that comes from her hatred within. She is a fascinating character, so much so that I wished the series didn't come to an end as I wanted to see what happened to her next.

The film is more of a drama this time around as Blomkvist and his team investigate the mysterious "Section" and the conspiracy around them slow begins to crumble. One of the things I love about these films is that the characters look and behave like real people instead of movie characters. A gun goes off in a Hollywood movie and nobody seems to flinch but here, the danger these people find themselves in is palpable and you can really see the fear in their eyes. Endre steps up to deliver a more dominant performance than I can recall in the other films while Nyqvist doesn't seem to have as much to do here. All of them, however, fade next to the incandescent Rapace.

The film sees the welcome return of Lisbeth's traditional look as the trial approaches

The film sees the welcome return of Lisbeth's traditional look as the trial approaches

Fun Facts

  • The Swedish title - Luftslottet som sprängdes - translates as "The Air Castle That Exploded". Only the second book and film share the same title as the Swedish title for The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo translates as "Men Who Hate Women".
  • The actor who plays Evert Gullberg, Hans Alfredson, is the father of the director Daniel Alfredson. Daniel's brother Tomas Alfredson directed another highly regarded Swedish film, the vampire film Let The Right One In.
  • Six months before shooting started, Rapace began learning various boxing techniques, acquired numerous piercings and learnt how to ride a motorbike. The boxing was more to do with the character's appearance than any fighting she would be doing on screen.

What's not to like?

Obviously, it helps if you have seen the other films in the series because The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest doesn't waste much time with flashbacks or exposition. There is also more of a shift away from the dark and brutal first film in the series - this finale feels more like a courtroom drama at times as Lisbeth's mental state is questioned by the evil Teleborian. Action scenes are reduced in number - although still thrilling to watch - and the story just seems to peter out a bit as though it wasn't sure of itself. There isn't enough to fill the running time, that's for sure.

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Viewers hoping for the series to go out on a bang will be disappointed that this film is more of a whimper than a shout. It lacks the visceral power that the first film had in spades and seems to have been watered down somewhat in comparison. It's still not an easy film for the whole family as footage of Salander's treatment at the hands of her legal guardian Nils Bjurman pops up from time to time. But overall, it is a satisfying end to the trilogy - it just needed a bite more bite to go with its bark.

Rapace is just magnetic as Lisbeth - strong and independent, yet fragile and troubled at the same time

Rapace is just magnetic as Lisbeth - strong and independent, yet fragile and troubled at the same time

Should I watch it?

Viewers of the first two films will doubtless be eager to see how the story ends (assuming, like me, you haven't read the books). This third and final film serves as a fitting reminder of Rapace's immense portrayal of Salander, a character whose presence I am both intrigued by and slightly scared of. It's a decent enough thriller that even manages a happy ending, something unique to the series. It just lacks the pace and punch of the first film but it's still recommended.

Great For: Swedish noir, fans of the books or film series, Rapace's Hollywood career

Not So Great For: subtitle strugglers, Sweden's tourism industry, the squeamish

What else should I watch?

It won't come as any shock to learn that both The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo and The Girl Who Played With Fire will be necessary viewing before watching this. Both films explore the characters pasts and interaction with each other, specifically Lisbeth and Mikael. There was also an English language remake of the first film with David Fincher's 2011 version of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo with Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara as Blonkvist and Salander. While critical reaction was positive, I see no reason to abandon the perfectly good Swedish original which is a brutal, effective and stark piece of film-making. I enjoyed it very much.

Endless books have been translated into cinema, often with quite mixed results. Among the more recent adaptations have been the books based on Dan Brown's Robert Langdon character. Kicking off with The Da Vinci Code in 2006 and followed up with 2009's Angels & Demons and 2016's Inferno, the films have grossed just over $1.5 billion between them and have proved hugely popular.

Main Cast


Noomi Rapace

Lisbeth Salander

Michael Nyqvist

Mikael Blomkvist

Lena Endre

Erika Berger

Annika Hallin

Annika Giannini

Georgi Staykov

Alexander Zalachenko

Niklas Hjulström

Prosecutor Ekström

Anders Ahlbom

Dr Peter Teleborian

Micke Spreitz

Ronald Niedermann

Technical Info

*based on the novel by Stieg Larsson

DirectorDaniel Alfredson


Ulf Ryberg *

Running Time

147 minutes

Release Date (UK)

26th November, 2010




Crime, Drama, Thriller

© 2017 Benjamin Cox

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John from LA on February 26, 2017:


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