Stockholm movie poster

Writer-director Robert Budreau presents an account of the events that gave name to the famed, seemingly bizarre Syndrome in which a captive bonds with a captor. If there is a surreal, even unreal quality to the proceedings, well, that’s no accident. First, what starts out looking like a bank robbery quickly reveals itself to be — well, yes, a bank robbery, but more than that, a ploy by robber Lars Nystrom (Ethan Hawke, committed as ever) to get his best friend and partner (a strong Mark Strong) sprung from prison. To get his way, he holes up inside the bank with a couple of hostages, including smart employee/loving mother Bianca Lind (Noomi Rapace, matching Hawke beat for beat). What develops between them has something to do with bonding during intense, even life-threatening situations, sure. But a number of conditions have to be just so to make that possible, starting with the creeping feeling that the guys who are supposed to save you — cops and politicians — are less trustworthy, less interested in your survival, and perhaps less fundamentally decent than the guy they’re supposed to save you from. It also helps that Hawke never really exudes an air of murderous menace — another (intentional) aspect of the situation’s unreality. Budreau states at the outset that the true story he’s working from is absurd, and it’s clear that he relishes that absurdity: yes, lives are being threatened throughout and powerful feelings are at play, but this is a strange and amiable comedy at heart. 2018.

Matthew Lickona

This movie is not currently in theaters.

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