THE GIRL WHO KICKED THE HORNET'S NEST is based on the final installment of Swedish investigative journalist Stieg Larsson's wildly popular Millenium Trilogy. The novel picks up from the previous installment. The anti-heroine Lisbeth Salander - genius hacker, emotional anorexic, victim of sexual abuse - spends half of the film in hospital recovering from an attempted murder at the hands of her father and brother - and the other half in court, defending herself for the attempted murder of her father. In both cases she is isolated, communicating with the outside world through an internet connection to her hacker friends, or by means of an autobiography she is writing. Many people risk everything to help expose her enemies and bring her justice - but she is so introverted she can barely register thanks. The first is kindly doctor Anders Jonasson who keeps the rozzers at bay; the second is Mikke Blomkvist, crusading journalist, who plans to expose all in his magazine, with the help of the entire Millenium staff.
The book is compelling for two reasons. First, as we see the conspiracy against Lisbeth exposed, we realise just how high up it goes - to the office of the Swedish Prime Minister, no less. The stakes are high, and as the court case proceeds, the tension mounts. In short, the book is a thriller that is genuinely thrilling. But more importantly, the book works because we've come to care about the characters. Lisbeth and Mikke may not be in the same room together but we feel there connection. And in the novel, Mikke's long-time colleague and sometime lover Erika Berger takes front-stage, when she leaves Millenium for the Swedish Morning Post and starts being bullied with explicit emails and texts. I thought the portrait of a successful career woman trying to balance her job with her emotions was particularly authentic.
Sadly, but not surprisingly, this Swedish adaptation, originally intended for the small screen, fails to do justice to the novel. The direction is visually uninspired, workmanlike and plodding, sapping all pace and tension from the narrative. The character of Erika Berger suffers most in the editing down of the novel to a still unwieldy two and a half hour run-time. The acting is just fine, but the actors have little to do but work through the text. Of the new characters, Aksel Morisse is sympathetic as the doctor Anders Jonasson but the rest are pretty unforgettable. The result was that I was so bored I almost walked out several times, preferring to remember the denouement as I had read it rather than in this insipid, tedious adaptation.
THE GIRL WHO KICKED THE HORNET'S NEST / LUFTSLOTTET SOM SPRENDGTES opened in Denmark, Norway and Sweden in 2009 and in Finland, Iceland, Spain, The Netherlands, Greece, Estonia, Canada, Germany, the USA, Switzerland, Austria, Singapore, France and Japan earlier this year. It is currently on release in the UK and opens in Indonesia in January 2011.