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Originally published Thursday, October 28, 2010 at 3:05 PM

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Movie review

'The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest': Movie buzzes with tension

A review of the third movie in the Swedish film version of Stieg Larsson's "Girl" trilogy, "The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest." Noomi Rapace gives a masterful performance as hacker heroine Lisbeth Salander.

Seattle Times movie critic

Movie review 3.5 stars

'The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest,' with Noomi Rapace, Michael Nyqvist, Lena Endre, Annika Hallin, Johan Kylén, Tanja Lorentzon, Niklas Hjulström. Directed by Daniel Alfredson, from a screenplay by Ulf Rydberg, based on the novel by Stieg Larsson. 148 minutes. Rated R for strong violence, some sexual material and language. In Swedish with English subtitles. Several theaters.

MOVIE REVIEW 3.5 stars

There's another hero of "The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest" in addition to Noomi Rapace, who's in marvelous form as hacker heroine Lisbeth Salander. It's Ulf Rydberg, the screenwriter who took on the seemingly impossible task of translating Stieg Larsson's wildly detailed 563-page book, filled with conspiracies and complex liaisons and dozens of characters and countless cups of coffee (amusingly acknowledged in one of the film's first shots), into a coherent, taut narrative. I like to imagine him stretched out on a chaise somewhere (from Ikea, no doubt, like Salander's furniture), recovering from the ordeal.

Directed by Daniel Alfredson (who also helmed the less-successful second film of the Swedish trilogy, "The Girl Who Played with Fire), "The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest" is the least violent of the three films, though it's still not for the faint of heart. And it's arguably the most gripping, precisely for that reason. Rather than watching, yet again, the horrific tape of Salander's rape, we merely hear it and see the reactions of others; rather than breathlessly following Salander as she tracks down evil, we watch her mostly confined — first in a hospital bed, then a jail cell, then a courtroom.

The story picks up immediately where "The Girl Who Played with Fire" left off: with Salander badly injured and being rushed to a hospital — which will only delay her imprisonment, as she's been charged with three murders. We know she's not guilty, but the suspense nonetheless is effective as we watch her recover, meet with her lawyer Annika (Annika Halin) and face her trial. She does all of this, needless to say, in classic Salander style: unapologetic, gruff, remote, uncomfortable with the idea of being protected, uninterested in conversation, determined to do things her way. She marches into court dressed in full punk regalia, complete with spiky dog- collar necklace and midnight-smudged eyes. This is who I am, she's saying; take it or leave it.

More than the other two, this is Rapace's movie; Michael Nyqvist's ever-rumpled Blomkvist has less to do, and their main scene together is just a tantalizing glimpse at the end; a brief, poignant reminder that we've come to the end of the road with these characters. (Larsson died in 2004, before any of the trilogy was published; though a fourth manuscript has been reportedly discovered, legal maneuvers may delay its publication indefinitely.) Though there's a nice cat-and-mouse action sequence at the end, I'd rather end this trilogy on a shot just before it: a lovely, blue-lit moment of Salander quietly smoking at a window in her shadowy apartment, gazing out into the darkness of a Swedish night.

Next up is the American remake (though it'll still be set in Sweden), directed by David Fincher ("The Social Network"), starring Rooney Mara and Daniel Craig and due in theaters in late 2011. If Mara can even come close to Rapace's almost eerie calm, unblinking intelligence, fearsome focus and uncanny way of smiling so microscopically you can barely perceive it, like a star barely glimpsed behind clouds — well, it'll be something to see.

Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or mmacdonald@seattletimes.com

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