The Captor at EIFF: the beige-est beige

I’m going to keep this short.

Robert Budreau’s The Captor is such a ‘nothing film’ – a 92-minute slog of generic tedium – that there’s nothing really to say about it. Bland, inoffensive, but vaguely competent straight-to-Netflix nonsense, it’s remarkable if only for the fact that Ethan Hawke’s agent thought this was a reasonable project to recommend to him.

Originally titled Stockholm (which is, for what it’s worth, a better title), the film traces the origins of the term ‘Stockholm Syndrome’ to the Norrmalmstorg robbery of 1973. Though the film is quite openly about this event, for some reason it changes the names of everyone involved and alters a bunch of strange details. It’s not clear why, though one suspects legal issues were involved.

In any case, Ethan Hawke stars as Lars Nystrom, a man with an assault rifle and an American accent who storms a Swedish bank. Instead of asking the local police chief (Christopher Heyerdahl) for money, however, Nystrom asks for his close friend Gunnar Sorenson (Mark Strong), breakfast, and the car from Steve McQueen’s Bullitt. The pair also take a bunch of hostages, notably Bianca (Noomi Rapace) and Klara (Bea Santos). Because of the previously mentioned psychological phenomenon, however, Bianca and Klara begin to bond with Lars and Gunnar, trying to bend the police force and the public’s perceptions of the situation towards their captor’s success.

I’m not entirely sure what The Captor wants to be. At times, it’s clearly positioning itself as a light-hearted comedy – although that’s a little at odds with the true story its portraying. At others, it seems like a sort of rubbishy post-Tarantino heist film, with its use of pop songs and nonchalant violence. But then, it segues into a romantic drama that expects us to buy chemistry that seems to be non-existent. Stockholm syndrome, to the audience, remains an unexplained psychological phenomenon, because The Captor isn’t able to demonstrate how Bianca suddenly wants to fuck Lars. It’s a textureless, tactless mess that’s easy to watch but not so easy to like.

Although it’s hard to see how Robert Budreau’s lacklustre film managed to pick up the talent it has – an exceedingly lengthy of production company logos suggests funding wasn’t such a breeze – whatever the blackmail involved, you’ve got Hawke, Rapace, and Strong on the screen for the vast majority of The Captor’s runtime. Although their performances here aren’t anything to write home about, they’re still magnetic screen presences that take this dull script a notch above ‘awful’.

Ultimately, I don’t really know what else to tell you. The Captor is reasonably well shot and acted, but not in a way that draws attention to itself or makes you think ‘wow, this is great’. Its storyline is reasonably interesting – but because it’s actually true, it’d probably be equally interesting to read the Wikipedia page. The film’s strapline – based on an absurd but true story – has a ‘fact is stranger than fiction’ kinda vibe to it, but The Captor never really seems stranger than fiction.

It’s all just rather beige. Like eating vanilla ice cream, on a cream couch, whilst looking at a beige wall kinda beige.



James is a postgraduate law student at LSE, and London Student's Chief Arts Editor/Film Editor. He wants you to know that Christopher Nolan is overrated.

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