Viewers who have seen the first (directed by Niels Arden Oplev), and especially the second (directed by Daniel Alfredson, as is this film), of the suspense/thriller dramas based on Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy will enjoy “The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest,” too.

Noomi Rapace, as tough, mistreated Lisbet Salander; Michael Nyqvist, as sensitive terrier-journalist Mikael Blomkvist and Lena Endre as Erika Berger, are as on-target in this installment as they were in the others, and the rest of the cast is just as good. Ulf Rydberg, who wrote the screenplay, has done a satisfying job of editing for film: Events, characters and relationships are in good supply to keep one on one’s toes in following who goes where, does what and when they do it.

Those, however, who have neither seen “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” and “The Girl Who Played With Fire,” nor read the books will probably have difficulty understanding the plot. They will also be at a loss to understand the characters and their relationships to one another. For example, reasons for Mikke’s willingness to put himself, his sister, his lover and the “Millennium” journal’s staff in danger to rescue Lisbet are never given, and are barely alluded to. Their attachment is formed, built and in some ways has already ended in the first film.

As Part III in a “maxiseries” the film is mostly successful.  Its first spoken line, “You came here to kill me,” in Swedish with English subtitles is striking. It drags a little in the first third of its two hours and 28 minutes, however, while Lisbet recovers from gunshot wounds received [in “Played With Fire”] at the hands of her golem-like half-brother, Ronald Niedermann, upon the orders of their murderous father, the Russian defector and criminal Zalachenko. 

Lisbet has been charged with the attempted murder of her father. The seriousness of her injuries keeps her in the hospital, in the care of an empathetic doctor who protects her from the police and state prosecutor as long as he can. He protects her also from the clandestine and now mostly retired “Section” of the former administration that took Zalachenko in, employed him criminally and allowed him free rein in Sweden when their times in office ended. Zalachenko, also in the hospital having survived Lisbet’s defense of herself, threatens the member of the Section who comes to speak with him about maintaining silence about their illicit activities.

Meanwhile, Mikke Blomqvist, with the resources and staff of the activist journal “Millenium” behind him, works hard to uncover the story behind Zalachenko and Lisbet, in order to rescue her and to bring the Section to justice.  He discovers the CD Lisbet made of her guardian raping her (“Dragon Tattoo”); he asks her if he may give it to Lisbet’s lawyer, his sister, as proof that she is not paranoid and has been badly treated by the State.

When the film heats up, it really heats up. By the time Lisbet is transferred to a jail for the duration of her trial, Mikke and staff have found evidence of the conspiracy that victimized Lisbet. The Section is pressuring them to stop pursuing the story. Niedermann is still out there, silently and ominously following events.

Death threats, violence, desperate measures taken, the hearing – held out of the public eye for reasons of “confidentiality” – in which it hangs in the balance whether Lisbet will go free or become a mental patient in perpetuity, are nail-bitingly suspenseful. Lisbet’s fully punked-out appearance in court, spotlighting her difference and anti-authoritarian vulnerability, is a high point.

That the theatre was more than half full on a sunny Sunday at noon speaks for the film’s success, but it serves to remember that in 2008 Stieg Larsson was one of the three most-read authors in the world. Many people have read the books; until one is among them, at least see “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” and “The Girl Who Played With Fire” before seeing “The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest.”

2 hours 28 minutes, Rated R    Unless you can’t wait, watch them one after another on DVD.