Ever wonder where the term Stockholm Syndrome came from? Well, the condition gets an origin story of sorts with “Stockholm,” an enjoyable heist film. Offering up a form of genre fare at the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival, it functions on multiple levels. On the one hand, this offbeat retelling of an infamous 1973 Swedish hostage crisis works just as a bank robbery tale. On the other, you get an intriguing look at a psychological syndrome. You have to imagine that one day college students will double feature this with “The Stanford Prison Experiment” as they learn the history of psychology. A solid festival offering, it could very well go on to some small scale success.
There isn’t a lot of complexity to the plot. We watch as the first, or at least first notable instance where hostages, one in particular, developed a strong psychological bond with their captor(s). Whether as a strategy for survival or just a stress induced disorder during captivity, it’s never called attention to. Little hints are dropped, but there’s never one moment where Bianca Lind (Noomi Rapace) comes to the side of her captor (Ethan Hawke). From the initial entry by the hostage taker, he breaks her down and builds her up, sometimes without even realizing it. When a fellow bank robber in Gunnar Sorensson (Mark Strong) enters the picture, the bond only grows tighter. With the police waiting for a misstep, the group becomes a little family of sorts. The outcome may be somewhat inevitable, but it’s surprisingly compelling to watch it all unfold.
By and large, this is the Ethan Hawke and Noomi Rapace show. They give “Stockholm” two very different yet equally good performances to lean on. The former is wild and loose, while the latter is uptight and rigidly trying to survive. The bond they form is interesting to watch unfold. Again, there’s no one moment to pinpoint, but by the end, it actually makes a lot of sense where they end up. Hawke gives a broader performance than some may prefer, but it’s often the source of the humor here. As for Rapace, she hasn’t been this good in some time. It’s two very effective performances that help make this film as good as it is.
Beyond Hawke and Rapace, the other major role goes to Mark Strong. He’s low key and the one who knows what he’s doing. Strong is slightly under utilized, but he’s a steady presence. Also on hand are Thorbjørn Harr, Christopher Heyerdahl, Mark Rendall, Bea Santos, and more, though they’re unable to distinguish themselves. Again, it’s Hawke and Rapace all the way, which is the point of the movie too. They’re the ones who pop.
Writer/director Robert Budreau previously worked with Hawke on the biopic “Born to be Blue,” so there’s a comfort level here for them. This film has a retro look to it that deserves commendation. If the screenplay follows a fairly standard bank heist beat, the direction is vintage in a slightly unique way. Budreau makes the movie look better and more expensive than you’d expect from an indie of this nature.
Overall, “Stockholm” is a sturdy little flick that represents a strong option at Tribeca this year. If you like Hawke’s smaller turns, this is another one to seek out. Furthermore, if you’re a psychology buff, this should be a curiosity, if nothing else. While not a masterpiece, “Stockholm” is well worth a watch. Both a character study and a genre exercise, it hits on both sides of the coin surprisingly well.