“Stockholm” may suffer from somewhat of an identity crisis but it sure knows how to pique our interest and stimulate our brains.
The new movie sits somewhere in between drama and comedy and never quite decides which genre it would like to be classified under. That in and of itself is not necessarily a bad thing but one seeking a comedy might want a few more laughs than “Stockholm” offers while one seeking a drama may be turned off by its almost jovial approach.
Worst of all, though, is the fact that “Stockholm” does not have as many thrills as you might expect or desire from a bank heist flick. Instead, it bypasses the heart and goes straight to the brain as it poses questions about a very fascinating psychological phenomenon.
Ethan Hawke plays Lars Nystrom, a man who dons a disguise to raid a central Stockholm bank. He then takes hostages in order to spring his pal Gunnar (Mark Strong) from prison. One of the hostages includes Bianca (Noomi Rapace), a wife and mother of two. Negotiations with detectives hit a wall when—at the request of Sweden’s prime minister—the police refuse to let Lars leave in a getaway car with the hostages.
As hours turn into days, Lars alternates between threatening the hostages and making them feel comfortable and secure. The hostages develop an uneasy relationship with their captor, which is particularly complex for Bianca—who develops a strong bond with Lars as she witnesses his caring nature.
Stockholm is based on (as the film’s opening scene states) the “absurd but true story” of a 1973 bank heist crisis that gave rise to the psychological phenomenon known as Stockholm syndrome. In fact, it would make for an excellent double-feature paired with “The Stanford Prison Experiment”—a 2015 film dramatizing a 1971 study that demonstrated how authority can go to one’s head.
That is to say that both films give the viewer a lot to think about. “Stockholm,” in particular, may even lead to some debate between family and friends—some of whom may side with Hawke’s character and others who defend the actions of the law enforcement officials portrayed in the movie. At any rate, this though-provocation weighs heavily in the film’s favor.
However, the reason above all others to see “Stockholm” is Hawke’s performance. The actor appears to be having plenty of fun with this role—which, let’s face it, is pretty off-the-wall. As a result, “Stockholm” is plenty of fun to watch as well. Even those viewers who side with the police will say that Hawke’s character is an oddly likable guy. That innate likability lends itself remarkably well to the movie’s demonstration of how Stockholm syndrome works.
Having said that, “Stockholm” could have benefited from a far more decided approach in which the filmmakers went completely bonkers with the story or created a straight-forward thriller. Sitting somewhere in the middle makes the movie somewhat of an oddity itself and a potential hard-sell to moviegoers.