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Review by Rich Cline | UK title: The Captor
dir-scr Robert Budreau
prd Jonathan Bronfman, Robert Budreau, Nicholas Tabarrok, Fredrik Zander
with Ethan Hawke, Noomi Rapace, Mark Strong, Christopher Heyerdahl, Bea Santos, Mark Rendall, Shanti Roney, Thorbjorn Harr, John Ralston, Ian Matthews, Christopher Wagelin, Hanneke Talbot
release US 12.Apr.19,
19/Canada eOne 1h32
There's a breezy tone to this bank heist thriller, based on the "absurd but true story" that coined the term Stockholm syndrome. The film's rambunctious energy is mainly due to a lively performance from Ethan Hawke. This may undermine a proper buildup of suspense along the way, as does the rather cartoonishly nasty villain of the piece, but the action and interaction are entertaining.
In 1973 Stockholm, a disguised man (Hawke) charges into a bank and takes the staff hostage, letting customers go and demanding the release of his imprisoned pal Gunnar (Strong), who soon turns up. It's clear from the start that the robber is too nice to harm anyone, so teller Bianca (Rapace) cooperates and even helps him, as do fellow hostages Klara and Olof (Santos and Rendall), who are worried that the police will take heavy-handed action. Sure enough, Chief Mattsson (Heyerdahl) responds to the situation with violence, backed by Sweden's prime minister (Roney).
The police are so reprehensible that it's easy to see why the hostages become loyal to the criminals. While the cops lie repeatedly and endanger lives, the hostages come up with ways to thwart officials and help their captors. Writer-director Budreau assembles this with a sparky attention to period detail, nicely juggling bigger action beats and more comical character moments. The lines drawn between good and bad guys are too obvious to allow much tension, but there's never a dull moment.
Hawke skilfully adds insecurity to his character, making him sympathetic even when he's swaggering and waving a gun. "I thought they'd cooperate," he says naively. So it's no wonder that Rapace's sensitive, observant Bianca takes him under her wing. With her large-frame glasses, she looks like a bunny caught in headlights, but also seems like the only person on-screen who has any sense. Strong is also terrific as the smooth, overconfident Gunnar. And Heyerdahl skilfully adds harsh edges, although his vicious character could use some texture.
Along with the sharply well-portrayed bank standoff, complete with a terrific period song score, Budreau attempts to stir emotions by cutting to Bianca's stressed-out husband (Lind)and young children. But because the tone in the bank is so loose and comical, it's difficult to feel much of their pain. But then, it's a tricky balancing act to make hostage-taking bank robbers into the good guys, with police as the sadistic baddies. This leaves the entire film feeling somewhat superficial, even if it's consistently engaging.
R E A D E R R E V I E W SStill waiting for your comments ... don't be shy.
© 2019 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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