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New Release Review - THE CAPTOR

the captor review
The absurd but true story of the 1973 bank heist and hostage crisis in Stockholm that was documented in the New Yorker as the origins of the 'Stockholm Syndrome'.


Review by Musanna Ahmed

Directed by: Robert Budreau

Starring: Ethan Hawke, Noomi Rapace, Mark Strong, Christopher Heyerdahl

the captor poster

A few months ago, Ethan Hawke commended Nicolas Cage in a polite back-and-forth exchange of compliments after both actors delivered career-best performances in 2018 with First Reformed and Mandy, respectively. If Hawke wanted to make an even better gesture for his friend, though, he would have offered him his role in The Captor, the new heist comedy based on the Norrmalmstorg robbery, the 1973 bank-theft-slash-hostage-crisis situation in Stockholm that gave birth to the term ‘Stockholm syndrome’ after the hostages bonded with their captors throughout the five-day ordeal.

the captor review

Hawke takes on the role of lead robber Lars Nystrom, who in actuality was a Swede but is here an American cowboy. He bursts into the Kreditbanken, Sweden’s biggest bank, and pops shots with his pistol, seizing several folks where they stand and bellowing for his friend Gunnar Sorensson (Mark Strong) to be released from prison if nobody wants any dead bodies or stolen krona. Chief Mattsson (Christopher Heyerdahl) immediately arrives on the scene and begins a long process of negotiation with the probable cokehead wildly demanding the freedom of his old partner in crime.

Nystrom is so over-the-top, written on the page in caps lock and punctuated with exclamation points (one assumes director Robert Budreau was even shouting directions at Hawke) so much so that it doesn't suit Hawke’s best strengths as a performer. The aforementioned First Reformed is a great example of the strong internal emotions that he can remarkably convey, as is his turn as Chet Baker in the biopic Born to be Blue, which is actually the previous collaboration between the director and actor.

the captor review

On the other hand, this role would have been a splendid entry in the canon of crazy Cage, who could play a maniacal anybody with his eyes shut. It might have suited Hawke if the script gave him even a touch of gravitas but, in keeping with the spirit of the "absurd but true" disclaimer, this is largely a farcical affair. On the other hand, Heyerdahl is most attuned to the director’s preferred tone with his hysterically bone-dry delivery, giving the most befitting performance in the whole piece.

A close second is Strong as liberated criminal Gunnar who, in an otherwise fairly unremarkable role, gets to catch us and the other characters off-guard by being a little bit smarter than everyone in the room. One of their prominent captives is employee Bianca Lind (Noomi Rapace), who is held hostage by a poor script that doesn't lend her any of the entertaining qualities of her scene partners - only her wonderful choice of spectacles left an imprint on me. Bianca, a married woman, inexplicably develops romantic feelings for the gun-toting rogue, leading her to make a bizarre series of decisions and requests for the authorities to ensure he can get out as safely as her when the threat of tear gas and heavily armed guards ramps up.

the captor review

The Captor, or Stockholm, or whichever generic, SEO-unfriendly title it releases under in your country, feels like it was made too late. There have been so many films premised on the condition of Stockholm syndrome that the value of this origin story is diluted, a little like how we didn’t really need to know the origins of Mowgli or Moby Dick. The second half, in which the ridiculous sequence of events increase tenfold, features a news reporter describing the whole scenario as something out of an American movie.

There are verbal references to the American crime movies that lingered in the global collective consciousness during the time period, like Bullitt and The Getaway, which give the impression that maybe The Captor would have had value in the multiplex back in Steve McQueen's heyday. I guess the '70s just didn't have Peter Berg around then to rip the crisis from the headlines and put it on the big screen.

The Captor is in UK cinemas June 21st.


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