Stockholm Review: A perfect showing of an absurdly true story
With dark comedic wit and incredibly fun characters, Stockholm not only boasters one of Ethan Hawke’s best performances, but an interesting look at, possibly, the origins of Stockholm syndrome.
Based on the absurdly true story documented in the New Yorker by Daniel Lang, the film follows a 1973 bank heist in Stockholm, Sweden where a crazed gunman (Hawke) takes over one of the biggest banks in Sweden and holds a small groups of bank tellers (Noomi Rapace, Bea Santos) hostage. Once the gunman reunites with a criminal friend (Mark Strong) through ransom demands with the police, the two criminals begin to form a bond with the hostages, and they are slowly seen by the hostages as not so criminal after all. With police making little effort to get the hostages free without the two men having to go to fatal methods, the hostages begin to help the pair of criminals escape so that they can all get out in one piece.
It’s actually interesting how the film utilizes the idea of Stockholm syndrome, a condition where hostages develop a psychological alliance with their captors, as I could feel it kind of afflicting me as I watched the film. Regardless of the criminal acts that Hawke and Strong’s characters were doing or what the situation was like, I couldn’t help but slowly grow more care for them and see them as not so bad. The film expertly blurs the lines between good and evil with some great character building and quieter moments to let writer/director Robert Budreau’s stellar dialogue create a sense of empathy that’s hard to resist.
Nothing, however, compares to the strong performances from Hawke, Rapace, and Strong as their characters are fun, absurd at times, and, overall, complex. Hawke’s performance as Lars is undoubtedly one of his best performances of his already accomplished career as he brings a pure sense of charm, care, and emotion to every second he’s on-screen. While we’re initially introduced to Lars as him being crazy and demanding, his more sympathetic and caring side come to the surface and, thanks to Hawke’s performance, we are given an unlikely hero to root for.
Rapace also puts in a strong performance as Bianca and captures her slowly building trust and care for Lars perfectly. Bianca is definitely the film’s example of Stockholm syndrome and Rapace’s performance really highlights why she is such an effective example. Strong is also effective in creating a small sense of empathy for his character, Gunnar, and create some sequences with Hawke that have me craving to see these two together on-screen again soon. Like Lars, Gunnar is introduced as intimidating and tough, but is quickly shown to not be as hardened as many would expect and with some fun lines, ends up being a solid comic relief that’s mirrored well with Hawke.
As said before, Stockholm does an interesting job blurring the lines between the police and criminals that’s very engaging and fascinating to watch. There’s a small mention that this incident is the first hostage situation this police force has ever encountered, which becomes increasingly obvious due to how they attempt to handle the situation. There’re moments that beg the question of whether the hostages would be safer with the police or the criminals. With the police not really doing much to keep the hostages safe, unless danger actually comes their way, and the criminals being more sympathetic and caring for their safety, it’s easy to relate and understand all of hostage’s feelings.
Especially, when you think about all of the absurdity that comes from both the police and criminals. Both sides go to some extreme and darkly comedic methods to make sure they come out on top. Whether it’s faking deaths or seeing how far things have to go for someone to take action, Stockholm is full of fun absurdity that’s thoroughly entertaining to watch.
Even when outside of their horror-sphere, Blumhouse has pushed out another strong film full of great performances, ideas, and creativity in the form of Stockholm. It mixes historic relevance with fun, absurd comedy to create a unique look at Stockholm syndrome in general. It’s an entertaining must-see and features another perfect performance from Hawke that deserves to be highlighted as one of his best.