A sunny day in 1973 finds Lars Nystrom (Ethan Hawke) strolling into a Swedish bank. He instantly takes control, discharging his weapon. Lars dismisses almost everyone except Bianca Lind (Noomi Rapace) and Klara Mardh (Bea Santos).
As this heist unfolds, Lars’ true goal becomes crystal clear. However, the lines between captor and captive become blurred as authorities show little regard for the victims.
“Stockholm” is the dark comedy about the bank heist that gave rise to the definition of “Stockholm Syndrome.”
Stockholm Syndrome is the feeling of trust or affection felt by victims toward a captor in certain cases of kidnapping or hostage-taking.
As Lars takes over the bank, Bianca triggers the alarm – exactly as Lars wants. He is not really here to rob the bank, as much as he is to free his longtime friend Gunnar Sorensson (Mark Strong).
As the negotiations progress, Lars’ demands are redirected by Chief Mattsson (Christopher Heyerdahl) as they attempt to stall and drag out the situation.
This narrative flips when Sweden’s prime minister refuses to allow the kidnappers to leave, even when they threaten to begin killing the hostages. When the hostages catch wind of this, they suddenly have no advocate. They become pawns in a cat-and-mouse game of political and psychological maneuvering. As both sides bluff and have that bluff called, the negotiations take steps back instead of forward.
This dark comedy is unusual. Touting an all-star cast and an “absurd but true story” vaults this film into its own niche.
Lars means business as he enters the bank. But it quickly becomes clear that he is not the most competent robber allowing an officer to sneak through the front door and shoot at him. Nor is he the most confident person, asking Bianca how Chief Mattsson reacted to his initial threat.
Director Robert Budreau pushes and pulls viewers’ emotions and allegiances throughout this dramatic and funny story. We feel threatened by Lars’ initial takeover, but soon grow to like him as his incompetence surfaces. Yet, his violent threats and manhandling of the hostages while in front of the authorities adds an element of doubt as to the captives safety. This film offers real danger, real risk and real stupidity.
When the authorities decide that the safety of the many outweighs the safety of the few hostages, audiences and the hostages fall in step with the captors.
Hawke and Rapace give memorable performances. Hawke’s Lars is bigger than life at the outset, but becomes a timid “lamb to the slaughter” by the conclusion. Rapace’s Bianca follows the opposite trajectory, transforming from a frightened mother to a willing participant helping their captors outsmart an uncaring chief and prime minister.
Absurd is the perfect word for this film. A story like this could never happen today with our current technology and the seriousness by which we handle threats. Thus, to watch a criminal be so lax and unprepared is both unsettling and hilarious at the same time.
“Stockholm” is a distinctive true story of trust and deceit. It’s a wild story that launches a syndrome, tickles our funny bone and forces viewers to wonder . . . “What would I be feeling?”