Sunday, April 22, 2018

Talking Tribeca: Stockholm

I’ve had the pleasure this year of screening a number of selections from this year’s Tribeca Film Festival, which takes place April 18th-29th.

Directed by Robert Budreau
Spotlight Narrative

It’s actually not so uncommon to see a film where someone gets taken hostage and ends up falling in love with their captor. Even if it’s not a romance, there are many instances of those who come to understand what it is that the criminal that has taken them aims to accomplish and to be able to emit some sympathy for their struggle, even if their chosen method of attaining it is far from commendable. There’s a term for such behavior, and it stands to reason that the original case that gave Stockholm syndrome its name would be worth exploring.

An American man (Ethan Hawke) identified as Lars bursts into the largest bank in Sweden in 1973, fires off a few rounds, and takes two hostages, employees Bianca Lind (Noomi Rapace) and Klara Mardh (Bea Santos). He demands that criminal Gunnar Sorensson (Mark Strong) be released from prison and makes clear what it is he wants from the unamused Chief Mattsson (Christopher Heyerdahl). As this remarkable standoff plays out, Lars and Bianca develop a bond and a trust, one that defies their situation and even pushes Bianca to help Lars try to make his getaway.

This is not an overtly serious film, beginning with the note “This is based on an absurd but true story.” From Lars’ first appearance on screen with a wild wig and an American flag on the back of his jacket, he’s a comic figure who never poses much of a threat, something that Bianca comes to understand when she recognizes him from a news report about a burglar who helped stop a man he was robbing from dying of a heart attack. As Chief Mattsson tries to manage Lars and con him into giving up or getting caught by surprise, it’s not just Lars who softens but the people around him who find their predicament to be horrifying but not nearly as miserable or frightening as it should be.

Hawke has been busy lately, both in front of and behind the camera, premiering several others film at Sundance and South by Southwest, and it’s good to see him in a comfortable role than allows him to be unhinged and energetic as always, and extremely entertaining. Rapace, the original “Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” makes a return to Swedish cinema with an English-speaking part that’s well-suited to her talents, and a Canadian actor best known for playing a character named the Swede, Heyerdahl, is perfectly cast as well. This film may not be as resounding as true crime caper “American Animals,” but it’s still an enjoyable and captivating look at an unusual crisis.


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