The Captor Review

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Would it have been better played straight?

by Casimir Harlow Jun 21, 2019 at 5:49 AM

  • Movies & TV review


    The Captor Review

    Looking back at the origin of Stockholm Syndrome through whimsical eyes, Ethan Hawke, Noomi Rapace and Mark Strong do their best in this lightweight caper.

    The term Stockholm Syndrome is the international reference to what was originally coined as "Norrmalmstorg Syndrome", in reference to the 1973 Norrmalmstorg bank robbery where a number of hostages behaved as if they had been brainwashed by their captors. Although the term has been used to describe a number of situations since (and even pre-dating this episode), it has never been officially classed as a recognised psychological disorder, nor successfully employed as an absolute defence to a crime.

    Widely reported on - and photographed - the hostage situation in 1973 has never really been fully explored in popular culture, eventually seeing a 2003 TV movie, Norrmalmstorg, released, and now this 2018 movie from Canadian writer/director Robert Budreau, who previously worked with star Ethan Hawke on the Chet Baker biography, Born to Be Blue. Released in the US as Stockholm, the movie finally lands on UK shores under the more generic title of The Captor.

    The end result finds some measure of success as a breezy crime caper

    The story sees Ethan Hawke's rock-and-roll robber enter a bank in Stockholm and take the bank staff hostage - including Noomi Rapace's teller - demanding money, a car and the release of Mark Strong's fellow robber. As the police struggle to deal with the situation, the crisis becomes protracted, and the hostages begin to side with their captors more than the clumsy and reactionary cops who they feel are more likely to get them killed.

    The Captor (2018)
    Having dealt with the life of Chet Baker with such reverence, it's curious that writer/director Robert Budreau chooses to go down the more comedic farce route for this examination of the events in Stockholm, avoiding the opportunity to examine the psychological trauma that led to the coining of the phrase, whereupon hostages and captors were forced to live together under quite extreme conditions for several days, and instead making it a lot more light-hearted than it really likely has any right to be.

    Moving past that, however, the end result finds some measure of success as a breezy crime caper, enjoying enthusiastic performances from its wig-wearing leads, and never taking the situation too seriously.

    About as psychologically incisive as Analyse This

    Hawke is clearly having the most fun, trying desperately to keep a hold of the fever dream events, whilst Mark Strong has almost as much fun acting confused as to why he is even there, and Noomi Rapace goes for oblivious innocent, at least until she starts getting involved. The trio almost makes it work through sheer willpower alone, but the film is simply too slight, with the inept and easily frustrated police chief (Christopher Heyerdahl - from Hell on Wheels and Tin Star - also having a ball) further pushing the story from incidental comedy into outright farce.

    Certainly the actors deserve better (Rapace, in particular, has had a tough time post-Prometheus, getting unceremoniously dispatched from Covenant, and finding herself in a succession of straight-to-video level outings, from Unlocked to Rupture to Netflix's Close), and likely the material does too, but they do their best with what's been preordained by Budreau here, serving up lightweight entertainment that's about as psychologically incisive as Analyse This.

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