The case after which this syndrome is named happened in 1973 in Stockholm, during a bank robbery. This absurd true story was the subject of research by psychologists, but also the subject of numerous films. The story follows Lars Nystrom (Ethan Hawke), who disguises himself, breaks into a bank and takes hostages. Contrary to expectations, his first request is to bring him Gunnar Sorenson (Mark Strong), a man who is already in a Swedish prison for robberies. Negotiations with the police are interrupted after Lars’ request to leave the bank with the hostages. As the hours turn into days, after the initial threats, Lars and Gunnar achieve an almost camaraderie with their hostages…
One of the hostages is Bianka (Noomi Rapace), wife and mother of two children. Her relationship with Lars becomes particularly complicated, as she discovers his gentle nature and sides with the kidnappers against the police. The author does not try to analyze this phenomenon, but presents the events from the perspective of all participants. In this way, we understand that the relationship established within the bank is not as strange as it seems at first glance.
Due to circumstances, all the characters become compatible, so much so that the Stockholm syndrome was almost inevitable. The details of the story are somewhat absurd, but the film as a film is not like that. There are fictitious sequences that increase the drama and a few relatively small changes in relation to historical facts, but the basis itself is completely true. The author Robert Budreau obviously did not intend to analyze the Stockholm syndrome or to deal with the causes and consequences, but to give us a light drama with elements of comedy, in which he succeeded.
The main driving force of the film is the character of Lars, who is wonderfully portrayed by Ethan Hawke. Although he carries a weapon, threatens and shouts, we soon become aware that he is not capable of hurting anyone, let alone killing. Bianca also notices this – she realizes that the real danger can only come from the police, who can take radical steps to end the hostage crisis. From the perspective of the hostages, the frustrated police with their finger on the trigger are more dangerous than Lars. In this confusion, the officers realize that the captors do not respect them and that the hostages are against them, so they begin their awe-inspiring methods.
I really appreciate Ethan Hawke, first of all because he still prefers quality independent films to commercial ones. Also, his performances enhance the quality of any film, which was seen in this case as well. His Lars is really hilarious at times, but he never becomes a caricature of himself. Numi Rapas is the original girl with the dragon tattoo and her Bianca has the specificity of a woman who feels alive again and who is paradoxically grateful to Lars for keeping her safe in a situation he caused.