The film is based in Stockholm, plays out in English and is loosely based on the true story of the 1973 bank heist and hostage crisis in Stockholm - which allegedly gave name to the Stockholm Syndrome (which depicts a victim held hostage becoming resistant to outside help and offering loyalty toward their captor).
Ethan Hawke plays American ex-con Lars Nystrom who strolls into a bank in Stockholm one day with guns, taking a few of the staff hostage and demanding the release of his old crime-partner who is in prison. He lets the public go and starts to negotiate with the police whilst forming some kind of bond as time goes on with Bianca Lind (Noomi Rapace), she, also clearly falling for her captor. He is portrayed as a man somewhere between hippy and redneck, fruit-loop and softie!
The authorities get his mate Gunnar from prison and deliver him to the bank, a deal being done en route to give him his freedom if he resolves the situation with no deaths - which he can't reveal to Lars, but which is revealed to the audience pretty soon. He's basically a 'plant' and we're able to follow his journey as he wrestles with his conscience, friend of Lars but looking after his own future. Gunnar is played by Mark Strong (1917, Zero Dark Thirty, 6 Days) with mystery, level-headedness and confusion dealing with his dilemma.
The standoff continues as events unfold with plans and counter-plans, strategies and maneuvers on both sides to outwit the other. The policeman in charge wanting to be ruthless but without being able to quite get there is played excellently by Christopher Heyerdahl but the acting awards for me must go to the two leads. I'll say nothing more of the plot now in case you don't know the story and would like to enjoy the film as a thriller.
Ethan Hawke and Noomi Rapace completely steal the show - it's hard to fault either of them in this film or much else they do. I was bowled over by Rapace's performance in The Secrets We Keep, Angel of Mine and The Girl Who... series. She's so very convincing and can apparently turn her talent to any project thrown at her. Hawke, similarly - loved his performances over the years in the likes of the Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, Before Midnight trilogy, Snow Falling on Cedars and as far back as A Midnight Clear. The chemistry between them beautifully reflects the film's theme and story.
The rest of the cast are strong too, even in the understated roles. Bea Santos plays the other staff female Klara nicely, and Ian Matthews, the other main policeman involved. The setting is pretty much all inside the bank and thoughts of Dog Day Afternoon spring to mind as the audience becomes sympathetic, the more they get to know the likeable characters - how soft they are - and executing a misguided action, but with a cause, so not so ruthless as career robbers.
There's a back-story going on about Bianca's husband and two kids as she starts to realise that Lars is much more the kind of man that she would prefer to be with over her personality-devoid and weak husband. There's also a soft side to Lars on display and which comes out as she discovers that he'd shown sympathy and help to another captor in a previous bank job. It's full of passion and connection and yes, chemistry, which was similarly present so strongly between Hawke and Julie Delpy in Before Sunset.
I'm not sure how much of it is really true to the facts of what happened, but even if they meander off on a path here, it's a great film, good entertainment and a terrific central performance by the two leads. It's on Amazon Prime, so do give it a go.