Army of Thieves
I’m the last person to be watching zombie movies…I’m just not a fan of the zombie-action genre, so I haven’t seen ‘Army of the Dead’. But when Netflix posted about this prequel ‘Army of Thieves’, it intrigued me a lot because I’m majorly into heist dramas.
It’s a typical light heist movie such as the Ocean’s series and Now You See Me, to name a couple, but it takes everything that makes those movies cool and puts them on a higher level. It presents quite an interesting plot, which makes one want to invest time on the movie, even if the first act is kind of slow. However, after the theme and backstory have been presented, one goes down full speed towards the end. The movie is not rushed. You can see and feel the team as a team. They have excellent chemistry, even though they are quite different from one another.
‘Army of Thieves’ serves to bring us the story of how a lonely bank teller, real name Sebastian Schlencht-Wohnert, is recruited by an alluring and mysterious jewelry thief, Gwendoline (Nathalie Emmanuel), to conduct a series of international bank heists, targeting the legendary impossible-to-crack safes of his hero, Hans Wagner. One of the highlights of the film is this character of Ludwig Dieter (Mathias Schweighofer), the nerdy safe cracker. His development through the film is enjoyable and satisfactory. Ludwig Dieter is indeed one of the best characters that this Zack Snyder universe can offer. One of my favorite aspects was when Sebastian was in the process of cracking the safes; we got to see the mechanical inner workings, which looked really awesome. That and his relationship with Gwendoline had me hooked from the beginning to the end.
There have been a few criticisms made of this film that I’m not in agreement with. One is that the characters are bland and stereotypical. Each of the characters is there to serve a specific purpose, but that is true of any film similar to this. It’s about combining people that can perform a certain skill necessary to complete the mission. I thought they worked well as a team, bringing a great mix of humor, action and intelligence. The performances of Schweighofer and Emmanuel were charismatic; and I also enjoyed watching those of Ruby O. Fee, Guz Khan and Stuart Martin, playing the rest of the “army”, Korina, Rolph and Brad respectively. The only character I wasn’t impressed with was that of Interpol’s Delacroix (Jonathan Cohen), who while trying to catch our anti-heroes, too often came across as incompetent.
I’ve heard it said that the film is too formulaic. This is one that I can appreciate could bother some people. There have been many heist films over the years. There is a structure to them that gets repeated. For me part of the charm and intrigue about a heist movie nowadays is seeing the ways in which the film utilizes the tropes. Here I feel like they knew exactly what they were doing and how far to push the familiarity. There’s even a gag about how in other heist movies we see the thieves plan for how the heist should go down perfectly before showing us how it actually happens. I was able to embrace the ‘clichés’ and just have fun with them.
Another issue I’ve heard was how it referred too much to the zombie outbreak from ‘Army of the Dead’, which at this stage was in its infancy. I loved how it incorporated the zombie outbreak, connecting this film to the wider universe, while also bringing a sense of context. Yes, stealing money from banks is a crime, but when you consider there are now zombies in this world, perhaps they would and should be the focus of people’s attention. Being a prequel, we also need to connect Sebastian/Dieter to ‘Army of the Dead’, and the zombies were an ideal way to do that.
Purely from a filmmaking perspective, I was surprised just how well made this movie was. The cinematography was stellar. The background score was above par. The editing was on point. I really enjoyed the heists themselves and the subsequent chase sequences. The set designs were amazing too. The emotional stories behind those safes were a brilliant touch. The few action sequences were well executed.
Having said all this, as a whole it was sort of predictable, and didn’t offer anything path-breaking or out of the ordinary. The filmmaker occasionally gave in to some of his worst impulses and robbed it of ‘classic’ status. At the same time, it is funny, charming and fast-paced and managed to keep me engaged despite being familiar and routine. Army of Thieves does a great job setting the stage for where we found Dieter in Army of the Dead, and if this is a sign of what we can expect from the expansion of this franchise, I’m excited to see what comes next. All in all, it was a wonderful addition to the Army of the Dead universe. And since we are in a global pandemic situation, such escapist entertainment is just what the doctor ordered!
Disclaimer: The above review solely illustrates the views of the writer.