Published Apr 08, 2019Stockholm syndrome isn't simply an arbitrary name for when hostages form a bond with their captors — the term was coined from a specific robbery of the largest bank in Sweden, and Stockholm explores that 1973 multi-day standoff.
Ethan Hawke plays Lars Nystrom (aka Kaj Hansson), a Swedish-American ex-con who enters Stockholm's Kreditbanken with a machine gun. He lets most of the bystanders leave unharmed, but takes three hostages and demands the release of his incarcerated friend Gunnar Sorensson (Mark Strong) to act as a mediator.
Despite Lars' vicious threats, it soon becomes clear that he doesn't plan to hurt anyone. In fact, he mostly wants to play cards and talk about movies with his hostages. In particular, he forms a bond with Bianca (Noomi Rapace), a bank worker who's keen to get home safely to two young kids.
Lars and Gunnar aren't particularly good negotiators, so Bianca ends up helping them in their mission to secure a car from the stubborn, uncooperative Police Chief Mattsson (Christopher Heyerdahl).
The blossoming relationship between Lars and Bianca is the core of the film. Lars is a robber with a heart of gold who is loveably inept, while Bianca seems to have some issues with her pleasant but bland husband. It's an intriguingly complex relationship, so it's a little disappointing that director Robert Budreau doesn't dig deeper into their backstories or motivations. Stockholm syndrome is a complex, fascinating psychological phenomenon, and this film doesn't flesh out the characters enough to offer much insight.
Then again, Stockholm is a succinct and endearingly goofy take on the heist genre. And the police are so obnoxious that audiences will be rooting for the robbers the whole way. I found myself siding with the criminals in a hostage situation. Is there some sort of phrase to describe that phenomenon?