A Quality Diversion: Our Review of ‘Stockholm’

Posted in Movies, Theatrical by - April 11, 2019
A Quality Diversion: Our Review of ‘Stockholm’

It’s no surprise that truth can be stranger than fiction…

While it’s not a movie that will light the world on fire, Stockholm is a quirky little crime drama that is a lot more generally pleasant then you’d expect and it shins a solid light on our home grown film industry.

Stockholm is based on the absurd but true story of a 1973 bank heist and hostage crisis documented in the 1974 New Yorker article “The Bank Drama” by Daniel Lang. The film follows Lars Nystrom, (Ethan Hawke) who dons a disguise to raid a central Stockholm bank. He then takes hostages in order to spring his pal Gunnar (Mark Strong) from prison. One of the hostages includes Bianca (Noomi Rapace), a wife and mother of two. Negotiations with detectives hits a wall when (at the request of the Prime Minister) the police refuse to let Lars leave in a getaway car with the hostages. As hours turn into days, Lars alternates between threatening the hostages and making them feel comfortable and secure. The hostages develop an uneasy relationship with their captor, which is particularly complex for Bianca, who develops a strong bond with Lars as she witnesses his caring nature. This connection gave rise to the psychological phenomenon known as “Stockholm Syndrome”.

While it’s got some obviously generic elements to it, Stockholm stands out at times thanks to a very naturalistic and comedically awkward tone that runs throughout this film that was “inspired” actual events and is anchored by a strong and underrated leading performance.

Writer/Director Robert Budreau who we saw previously with star Ethan Hawke in the Chet Baker bio pic Born To Be Blue team up again here with some solid work with a film inspired by an article in the New Yorker.  He can set a scene and has a genuine flow about him when he tells a story.  Nothing in the film is particularly flashy but it all has meaning and holds our interest.  Using a location in Hamilton to tell the bulk of his story he doesn’t fall into any showy or unnecessary traps about trying to brand his film as location specific, it could have happened anywhere.  While it does has some exterior shots in Sweden, he never lets us gets lost in location and focuses on the story that while a little ridiculous is kind of fascination.

If this was actually the birth of the “Stockholm Syndrome”, I’m kind of surprised that this story hasn’t been told earlier as it’s an interesting one and the script really allows the character work to shine with this group of very different minded people.

Ethan Hawke just doesn’t get enough credit for being not only a solid and compelling leading man who can carry a film but a solid character actor to boot.  As Lars Nystrom he’s a man who tries to carry the weight of being a bank robber and a “hardened criminal” but he just doesn’t have it in him to maintain that facade for all that long.  Even when he’s pushing a crazy agenda he manages to be charming and likable which is where the dilemma of “Stockholm Syndrome” comes from and he sells it well.  Noomi Rapace is solid opposite him as a married bank worker who ends up sympathizing with him and their dynamic works well together thanks to some natural, understated chemistry between the two.

However on the flip side of all this Mark Strong as Gunnar just gets wasted as he really doesn’t have a whole lot to do and while there are a couple of semi familiar Swedish actors rounding out the ensemble nothing all that interesting happens with any of them and Hawke and Rapace do the heavy lifting.

When all is said and done, Stockholm is a quietly solid little movie.  It’s nothing you have to run out and see…but you won’t regret it if you do either as it’s a quality diversion.

 

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David Voigt is a Toronto based writer with a problem and a passion for the moving image and all things cinema. Having moved from production to the critical side of the aisle for well over 10 years now at outlets like Examiner.com, Criticize This, Dork Shelf (Now That Shelf), to.Night Newspaper he’s been all across his city, the country and the continent in search of all the news and reviews that are fit to print from the world of cinema.
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