by Hope Madden
It’s amazing to think that a film has never been made of the heist that created the term “Stockholm Syndrome.”
Well, writer/director Robert Budreau has rectified this situation with his Ethan Hawke-led semi comedy, Stockholm.
Hawke, who starred in Budreau’s 2015 Chet Baker biopic Born to Be Blue, plays Lars Nystrom. A bewigged bandit, Nystrom concocts a 1973 bank heist with different goals than your traditional smash and grab.
By taking a couple of hostages, Lars hopes to win the freedom of his best friend, imprisoned bank robber Gunnar Sorensson (Mark Strong).
The always-welcome Strong creates a tender and level-headed counterpoint to Hawke’s endearing, idealistic dumbass. The lead wheel to the film’s cinematic tricycle comes from the quietly powerful work of Noomi Rapace (the original Girl with the Dragon Tattoo).
Playing Bianca Lind, one of Nystrom’s hostages, Rapace’s plaintive performance suggests a character who relies on observation and personal judgment. Never showy, Rapace becomes the gravitational force that tethers flighty characters and wild antics to a realistic foundation.
Budreau seems to be asking himself how it’s possible for captives to choose to side with their captors. Credit the filmmaker for avoiding the pitfall of casting the authorities as one-dimensional bullies or buffoons. Christopher Heyerdahl is particularly effective as Chief Mattsson, a good man who’s n a bit over his head.
Stockholm’s greatest strength, besides the understated playfulness of its cast, is the light touch Budreau brings to presenting the two sides of the standoff. And yet, in the end, he ensures that we the audience do, indeed, feel more compelled by the outlaws.
It’s a subtle act of manipulation perpetrated by Budreau, but not so terrible as to sink the film. The filmmaker’s real miss is in his superficial look at the environment within the vault that brought the captives and captors together.
Thanks to a fine cast that’s able to toe Budreau’s unusual line between comedy and drama, though, you’ll find yourself strangely fond of everyone involved.