The Captor, 2018.
Directed by Robert Budreau.
Starring Ethan Hawke, Noomi Rapace, Mark Strong, Christopher Heyerdahl, Bea Santos, Mark Rendall and Thorbjørn Harr.
A slightly bumbling bank robber forms an intimate bond with one of his hostages.
The term ‘Stockholm syndrome’ is a famous one, referring to the phenomenon in which a hostage or captive develops feelings of affection and even love for the person holding them against their will. The Captor, released under the more obvious title of Stockholm elsewhere in the world, tells the story of the case that gave the phenomenon its name – “an absurd but true story” as an opening title card puts it. It’s certainly a bizarre tale and, on the evidence of Robert Budreau’s movie, it’s perhaps too weird for a film to do it justice.
Ethan Hawke plays the Americana-loving robber Lars, who bursts into one of the Swedish capital’s poshest banks and promptly takes a selection of hostages, including teller Bianca (Noomi Rapace). He negotiates with police chief Mattsson (Christopher Heyerdahl) for the release of his armed robber buddy Gunnar (Mark Strong) and declares he also wants a tonne of cash and a Ford Mustang “like Steve McQueen in Bullitt“. The cops are less forthcoming on the latter demand and soon the robbers and hostages are holed up in a vault, waiting for an end to the impasse.
It’s in the oceans of time provided by the impasse that Hawke and Rapace’s characters begin to bond and form a slightly warped trust, with the robbers presenting solutions that, to the hostages at least, seem simple for the authorities to play ball with. Hawke plays Lars as a charismatic, roguish figure and, apart from occasional bouts of manic paranoia, he seems to have a fairly clear idea of what he wants from the situation. It’s a big performance from Hawke, but one that conveys the dichotomy of a character who’s terrified, but trying to swagger around with confidence.
His counterpoint is Strong’s Gunnar, who’s soft-spoken but sensible and seems content to observe. It’s an under-written role for Strong, but one he carries out with his trademark gravitas. Noomi Rapace, meanwhile, is given much of the narrative meat and does solid work – most notably in a scene in which she tearfully explains to her husband how to cook dinner for the kids – even if the film doesn’t quite do the legwork required to make the increasingly romantic bond between Bianca and Lars ring true. Budreau struggles to evoke the claustrophobia and paranoia of the situation and so the gradual build of the relationship doesn’t land as plausibly as it should.
The inherent chaos of the real robbery, which took place in 1973, is ill-suited to a big screen thriller, with complex behind the scenes negotiations basically tossed aside for cops who are comedy bad guys short only of a moustache to twirl. Budreau seems determined to simplify the events, and this inevitably short-changes the emotional movement necessary to enable the central relationship to feel in any way authentic.
Much of the success here lies at the door of the actors and, as hard as they work, they’re unable to elevate the material beyond the level of a slightly muddled exercise in mediocrity. The story is nothing short of remarkable, but it’s also complicated, and there’s a complexity required that this rather rudimentary film isn’t willing to explore in the necessary detail. The talent involved means The Captor is always watchable, but it’s never anything more than that.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★
Tom Beasley is a freelance film journalist and wrestling fan. Follow him on Twitter via @TomJBeasley for movie opinions, wrestling stuff and puns.