Sunday 11 August 2019

Movie Review: Stockholm (2018)

A crime drama, Stockholm recreates the bank robbery at the origin of the condition known as the Stockholm Syndrome.

It's 1973, and an armed man who might be Kaj Hansson (Ethan Hawke) storms a large bank in central Stockholm. He takes a few hostages including tellers Bianca (Noomi Rapace) and Klara (Bea Santos), and demands the release of his friend Gunnar Sorensson (Mark Strong) from prison, a Mustang and $1 million. Police Chief Mattsson (Christopher Heyerdahl) handles the negotiations, and with widespread live television coverage, the event becomes a national crisis.

Bianca, a married mother of two children, establishes an unusual connection with Kaj. She tries to keep him calm and he promises not to kill her, despite his uttered threats to Mattsson. Gunnar is delivered to the bank to appease Kaj and potentially help in the negotiations. Prime Minister Olof Palme (Shanti Roney) insists the hostages be freed before the criminals are allowed to leave the bank, further inflaming the crisis, but the bond between the bank robber and Bianca only grows stronger.

The Stockholm Syndrome refers to hostages gaining sympathy for their aggressors, a phenomenon that first came to light due to the widespread media coverage of the 1973 bank hold-up. Loosely based on the actual event, Stockholm treads lightly into the terrain of psychology as assailants and hostages are placed under duress. Canadian director Robert Budreau orchestrates an uneasy melange of tension, humour and provocative romance, all fuelled by the unstable but undoubtedly charismatic bank robber.

Budreau's script brings the dynamics between Kaj and Bianca to the fore, and finds the seeds of affinity germinating in their humanity. She is an even-tempered employee, wife and mother, desperate to survive the ordeal and see her children again (her husband, not so much). He carries the weapons without really ever being in control of the situation, but senses her strength. The hostage-taking drags on for several days, allowing their relationship to evolve from survival codependency to something more.

But for a story about people more than events, Stockholm is limited in scope to what happens in the bank. Although a few scenes of dialogue attempt to invest in background depth, the characters' actions are undermined by insufficient definition. Ironically Bianca emerges as the slightly better rounded person, Noomi Rapace grabbing hold of Bianca's spirit and personal frustrations in a phenomenal scene where she gives cooking instructions to her wobbly husband. Ethan Hawke has less to work with, and resorts to stock nervous gunman mannerisms.

Just as the real incident was a messy and often bewildering affair, Stockholm enjoys ups and downs as a small group of people are forced into a vault, trigger fingers at the ready but with plenty of haphazard planning and wayward targeting.

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