Movies based on real events have a difficult task ahead of them: they need to keep the integrity of the event, but still tell a compelling story. If done poorly, it’s either a boring movie, or full of lies. Stockholm, a film by Canadian director, Robert Budreau, tells the story of the Norrmalmstrog robbery; this movie is a complete fictionalized version of the event that took place. Though Ethan Hawke’s performance is captivating, Stockholm is an ultimately flawed movie about relationships, and survival.
In 1973 Stockholm, Sweden, an American cowboy, played by Ethan Hawke, walks into a bank and attempts to rob it. He lets all but a handful of hostages go, and demands that his friend Gunnar Sorrenson, played by Mark Strong, be released from prison and join him.
During the events that ensue, problems occur, as they do in all heist movies, and the outlaw and Sorrenson form a bond with the bank employees. Hawke’s character grows fondness for Bianca, played by Noomi Rapace, in particular. Problems arise when negotiations between the police and the criminals escalate. On one side, the criminals want to get out alive and need the hostages as a bargaining chip, while on the side of the law, police are trying to keep everyone safe and sound, but are held back by politics and procedures. As the days progress, both sides lose rational and logic and begin to resort to more extreme measures.
It’s difficult to say what kind of genre this movie falls into. At times, it’s an absurd comedy, with jokes and stupidity taking the reign. Other times, it’s a psychological and social piece about the concept of control. On another level, it’s a bank heist thriller, where every move that’s made can lead closer to the victory or defeat. Stockholm is a great heist film, but can’t seem to choose between humour and drama. Though it doesn’t fail at any level, it doesn’t seem to know what kind of story to tell.
The relationship between Hawke’s character and Bianca is believable, and it starts off with uncertainty and fear. But it seemed to skip a couple of steps, and the moment they fall for one another isn’t as believable as it could have been, if given the time. The humour, though clever, seems out of place, and not prominent enough to make the movie a comedy. It could have been removed without consequence.
Though the movie is average through and through, it’s only real grabbing point is Ethan Hawkes’s spectacular performance. His range from a cocky and outrageous cowboy, to a frightened and terrified captive is mesmerizing. At no moment did I feel that his performance was disingenuous. Every laugh or cry of terror is spot-on with the moment. When his hostages and friend are in danger, his fear for their safety is powerful. His ability to go through all the different range of emotions from being the captor to the captive, is probably the reason this movie is worth watching. Viewers can tell what is growing through his mind by reading his body language and tone of voice alone. There’s no need for any exposition, or voice-overs to explain his current state of mind. Every moment he has is genuine. When he stutters through his plan, the audience knows he has lost control, and in the end his character arc is complete. This is one of the best performances of the year so far.
Stockholm is not a bad film, the tone is simply a little way’s off, and the story could have put more work into the most interesting aspect: the criminal becoming one of the victims. Instead, Budreau took the time to make it more comedy-drama, than full on drama. Luckily, the film’s focus on Ethan Hawke is for the best, as his performance alone makes the film worth watching. He took an average movie, and made it memorable. Without his powerhouse ability, I think this movie would fall in the land of forgettable movies, where there’s nothing either good or bad to say about it. Be enamoured by his personality alone, and you can understand why the hostages fell for him.