The Captor (2 stars)

The Captor

Ethan Hawke has fun in this fictionalised and flawed take on a notorious real-life heist

When, in 1973, Jan-Erik Olsson strolled into Stockholm's Kreditbanken on Norrmalmstorg square, took hostages, and demanded that his imprisoned friend and fellow bank robber Clark Olofsson be brought to him, the ensuing stand-off sparked fascination around the world.

It soon emerged that, despite being threatened by their captors, the hostages defied expectation by bonding with and attempting to protect them, coining the term 'Stockholm syndrome'. Now writer-director Robert Budreau (Born to Be Blue) relays the bizarre events of the Norrmalmstorg robbery in this adaptation – going by the name Stockholm in the US – surprisingly the first feature film on the subject (a Swedish made-for-TV effort aside).

In it, Budreau certainly plays fast and loose with accuracy – characters are renamed, and there are fewer hostages – though he presents a very by-the-numbers re-enactment of events, in a film which plays out almost entirely within the bank. Though this fixed location helps viewers experience the likely claustrophobia of the situation alongside the characters, much of what occurs within the building's walls is strangely dull.

Ethan Hawke alone injects some much-needed excitement into proceedings, portraying Lars Nystrom (the fictionalised version of Olsson) as buffoonish yet tender, frequently over-the-top, and prone to outbursts. He begins to connect with Bianca, a competent hostage played by Noomi Rapace – who is desperately underserved in the role. Indeed, all of the supporting characters lack anything beyond surface-level characterisation and, although Lars is convincingly sensitive to his hostages' wellbeing, the escalation of Bianca's warmth towards him feels ludicrously rushed.

Scenes follow one another with little purpose beyond parcelling out an underdeveloped story, with no discernible emotional or thematic through-line tying it all together. The few attempts at humour fall flat; while Lars is shown as laughably incompetent at times, the film never masters the balancing black comedy found in the likes of Fargo. Ultimately, such intriguing subject matter deserves more depth and less drag. Still, Hawke evidently enjoys himself, something the actor's fans will appreciate if little else.

Limited release from Fri 21 Jun.

The Captor

  • 2 stars
  • 2018
  • Canada / US
  • 1h 32min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Robert Budreau
  • Cast: Mark Strong, Noomi Rapace, Ethan Hawke

Lars (Hawke) is a bank robber who takes a bank hostage so as to demand that an imprisoned friend be released. This fictionalisation of the origin of Stockholm syndrome is strangely dull and lacks depth, although Hawke injects some warmth as the buffoonish and tender Nystrom.