The Captor Review
1973, and a man (Ethan Hawke) walks into a bank in Stockholm, firing a rifle into the ceiling as a means of demanding the attention of the authorities and taking two staff members, Bianca (Noomi Rapace) and Klara (Bea Santos), hostage. His demands include one million US dollars, a blue Mustang, and the release of fellow criminal Gunnar Sorensson (Mark Strong). Over the next few hours the power play between the criminals, the hostages, and the authorities becomes something else as loyalties and morality shift. But time for everyone is running out.
It’s hard to define a movie like The Captor. Based on a serious subject, the 1973 Stockholm bank hostage situation, its tone is too comedic to be a gritty crime drama, but there are moments that are too serious for the film to be called a comedy, and black comedy feels wrong as it implies a nastier sense of humour than what this film has. Yet the performances, interesting story, and period setting make it an entertaining little gem. The 1970s vibe is well established and feels natural. The script is light but sharp with these odd yet enjoyable moments. One moment which I particularly enjoyed was one when Bianca pleads to give a message to her husband Christopher (Thørbjorn Harr), but instead of a heartfelt profession or words of comfort for their children, she instead gives him instructions on how to prepare the fish in the fridge for dinner that night.
Yet the smaller and less humorous moments work as well. It’s interesting because whilst director and screenwriter Robert Budreau never goes to any dramatic extremes, it still comes together quite nicely. Ethan Hawke is a good choice as the moral crook and it’s always a pleasure to watch him work as he starts off this façade of bravado waxing lyrical about American music, but the layers start to peel away and we see the more vulnerable individual underneath.
Hawke worked with Budreau previously on Born to Be Blue, in which Hawke gave an exceptional performance as musician Chet Baker. Mark Strong makes for an interesting presence rocking the double denim. He’s the wild card whose intentions and motives are never entirely clear. Noomi Rapace is in essence the heart of the film, she is our emotional anchor to what is happening and that plays out very well. I do wish though that we got more from the other hostages and why they come more round to regarding their captor a little kinder. We understand pretty well why Bianca does, but for the others it never feels as clear. I can understand why the filmmakers did it, in order to develop the element of attraction between Bianca and Kaj (or should that be Lars?) and to emphasise that emotional anchor, but a wider perspective would have balanced things out just a little more.
As the film goes on it is the people in authority, particularly police chief Mattsson (Christopher Heyerdahl), that are more antagonistic, so we the audience, much like the hostages, begin to side with Kaj and Gunnar. You want them to get away, even if all the things going wrong make that less and less likely.
If you go into this film looking for a serious retelling of events, or something exploring the complex psychologies at play in a situation that may lead to people bonding with their captors, then you will be disappointed. There is an off-beat quality to The Captor that makes for a viewing experience that I would best describe as quirky, but that doesn’t make it any less enjoyable or watchable. If anything, it felt very fresh. It may not make any major waves in this year's film landscape, but I am still glad to have seen it.