The Captor: “True Crime a la Blumhouse”
The last time Ethan Hawke played a role as flamboyantly as he does in Robert Budreau’s new film, he was playing a character named “Jolly the Pimp” in a Luc Besson space opera. Hawke’s Kaj Hansson is a stetsoned, Bob Dylan-obsessed ball of energy from the moment he walks into the bank where the film spends most of its run-time. His magnetism is, at least, appropriate to the character. Released in the UK under the title The Captor, Budreau’s film is known elsewhere as Stockholm, after its location – and the syndrome it documents the origin of.
So Hawke is the hostage-taker, the reliably excellent Mark Strong is his accomplice, and Noomi Rapace is the bank clerk who falls under his spell. None of them have the names of their real-life counterparts, but that isn’t a problem; the movie sticks reasonably closely to the facts as laid out in Daniel Lang’s 1974 New Yorker article ‘The Bank Drama’, which brought the facts of the case to a worldwide audience. (Lang is named in the end credits) The choices Budreau makes in dramatising these facts are more of a problem.
Budreau previously worked with Hawke on the well-received Chet Baker biopic Born to Be Blue, and The Captor has a producer’s credit for Jason Blum, whose horror movies (era-defining, whether you like them or not) returned Hawke to box-office prominence after he aged out of the youthful slacker roles that initially brought him attention. It’s no surprise, then, that Hawke is front and centre from the start. While his performance is enjoyable, the film as a whole would be stronger if some baseline of normality was established before Hansson comes along to disrupt anything. The final scene, which attempts to reframe the movie as the story of Rapace’s Bianca Lind, sits particularly awkwardly in this context.
Stockholm Syndrome is a condition borne out of forced closeness, so it’s strange that Budreau shoots in a roomy 2:35.1 aspect ratio, hanging back from his actors and showing plenty of space around them. Granted, banks are not normally described as “bijou” by estate agents – but the obvious comparison point, Sidney Lumet’s Dog Day Afternoon, successfully makes its one location feel hot, cramped and pressurised.
For all these issues, Budreau keeps the story moving at a lively pace, and the sheer strangeness of the source material makes it easy to maintain interest. He also has a sure touch with actors; Hawke and Rapace understandably get the meat of the drama, but Strong makes a potentially reactive part dynamic in its own way, and Christopher Heyerdahl is wonderfully withering as Police Chief Mattsson, watching with disbelief as the situation becomes stranger and stranger.