Netflix’s “Army of Thieves” review – The Hollywood Reporter

The zombie apocalypse is in its infancy, seen only in reports from distant Nevada in the Netflix prequel to that of Zack Snyder Army of the dead. One of the funniest characters in this Las Vegas blood-trash feast was German cracker Ludwig Dieter, played by Matthias Schweighöfer with a mix of clever dexterity and reluctance that often prompted the question “Gay or European?” The answer is provided in a timid romantic thread in Army of thieves, which brings back Schweighöfer, this time both director and star on a heist adventure tackling three of the most impenetrable vaults ever built.

scripted by Army of the dead co-writer Shay Hatten From a story he developed with Snyder, the prequel is a triumph of the nerd retracing how the goofy bank teller eventually known as Ludwig got his start in high stakes crime . The creative team acknowledges a debt to Italian work, but while the new film marks a distinct shift in genres, it also hinges on its predecessor enough to make it an identifiable part of the same burgeoning franchise. (A sequel to the first film is in the works, along with an animated prequel series, called Army of the Dead: Lost Vegas.) A few non-billed cameos here help tie the knot.

Army of thieves

The bottom line

Crack the combination even with a few false clicks.

Release date: Friday October 29
To throw: Matthias Schweighöfer, Nathalie Emmanuel, Ruby O. Fee, Stuart Martin, Guz Khan, Jonathan Cohen, Noémie Nakai
Director: Matthias Schweighöfer
Scriptwriter: Shay Hatten; Zack Snyder and Hatten story, based on characters created by Snyder

2 hours 9 minutes

Schweigh̦fer, who has numerous credits both on screen and behind the camera with commercial successes in Germany, shows scrupulous attention to detail and an eye for the architectural and design quirks of Old World Europe which, in the opening scenes of his directorial debut in English, Wes Anderson sometimes remembers. His fascination with the intricate mechanisms of high-security safes Рthe intricate web of internal locks, cogs, pins and pins, breathing like living organisms Рsometimes even echoes the studies of watchmaking by Martin Scorsese. in Hugo. The storytelling on the whole is less sophisticated, relying a little too often on tense humor, but it is smooth and pleasantly playful entertainment.

Ludwig, or Sebastian Schlencht-Wöhnert, depending on his birth name bite, has no YouTube subscribers but diligently posts videos about his passion for safecracking. He opens the film with a fairy tale tale “Once Upon a Time” by Hans Wagner (Christian Steyer), a Munich locksmith devastated by the tragic death of his wife and child. Still in mourning, Hans embarks on his magnum opus, the construction of four safes inspired by each of the operas of The ring cycle, by its namesake, Richard Wagner.

The biggest and most difficult of these projects, the Götterdämmerung, was the mega-vault targeted by the motley team of Army of the dead, located in a basement of Sin City Casino in the midst of the zombie infestation. The three remaining safes, the Rheingold, Valkyrie, and Siegfried, are believed to be in Europe, without anyone knowing where they are. Or at least they are until internationally wanted thief Gwendoline (Nathalie Emmanuel) recruits Sebastian to complete his heist team, his detective having pinpointed the locations of the safes in Paris, Prague and St. Moritz, Switzerland. , respectively.

Much of the humor at the start comes from the numbing gloom of Sebastian’s existence, enduring complaints from grumpy bank customers and eating his sad sandwich alone every day on his lunch break in a cobbled alley in the rain. . So when Gwendoline rocks a taste of adventure and excitement, after anonymously testing his skills in an underground cracking competition in Berlin, he’s quick to bite. “A less ordinary life,” she calls it, which appeals to the part of Sebastian who is desperate to be cool.

He meets the rest of the crew – hacker ace Korina (Ruby O. Fee), getaway pilot Rolph (Guz Khan) and “real live-action hero” Brad Cage (Stuart Martin) – and learn that the degree of difficulty will increase with each safe. Given the international security concerns surrounding America’s zombie outbreak, the safes need to be removed and decommissioned, and they only have four days to break them.

There’s a pleasantly fast pace to the storytelling, with editor Alexander Berner using lots of wipes, smash cuts, on-screen graphics and Snyder-esque slow and fast replays to shake up the pace, as well as a score. offhand from Hans Zimmer and Steve Mazzaro that turns suspenseful at the appropriate times. Various movements from Wagner’s opera are used diegetically, played by Sebastian on his cell phone as he works on each safe.

Schweighöfer finds funny comedy notes in Sebastian’s encyclopedic knowledge of Norse mythology that inspired Richard Wagner, which he is keen to explain to Gwendoline as he manipulates the dials, his stroking of each vault as an act of love. He gradually reveals his own nervous romantic feelings for Gwendoline, which are complicated by the rivalry with double cross Brad, a preening jerk whose alias is an amalgam of his Hollywood idols, Brad Pitt and Nicolas Cage – the one of the few meta references to cinema tradition.

The team’s race against time and efforts to evade detection become complicated once Interpol spotted their scent in a long-standing investigation by French officials Delacroix (Jonathan Cohen) and Beatrix (Noémie Nakai) .

The lively early-action dynamic loses energy once the heist team is fractured, and screenwriter Hatten’s attempts to incorporate some of Wagner’s themes, such as the corrupting influence of money and of power, seem undercooked. The movie works best as a windy criminal lark. The supporting characters could have used more dimension as well, with Korina and Rolph’s initial promise, in particular, dissipating somewhat once the focus is on Sebastian and Gwendoline.

In the latter role, Emmanuel (Missandei on Game Of Thrones) brings a confident look and behaves convincingly in some kicking fight scenes. Gwendoline is a wealthy girl with a rebellious streak, who is more interested in becoming a legend in the crime world than she is in money. Even though their chemistry could be stronger, the temporary attraction between her and Sebastian is played out well as they share details about each other’s lives, including the origins of her secure fixation and the alter ego that ultimately becomes her. new name. Schweighöfer balances drowsiness and common sense in her character, making her a likable track, with each success fueling a new daredevil spirit.

The plot becomes less imaginative as the story progresses, and the attempt to inject poignant notes into the late developments is only semi-successful. But the director keeps his foot on the accelerator, especially in action sequences such as a wild chase with Sébastien on a bicycle in the streets of the old town of Prague. And the winding Swiss alpine roads of the highest point provide scenic grandeur, increasing the tension by asking Sebastian to open the most difficult of safes in a moving vehicle.

In terms of craftsmanship, the film benefits from quintessentially German production values, especially the nimble camera work of DP Bernhard Jasper and the bold use of saturated color. It’s a beautiful movie, and while the script isn’t completely airtight and part of the comedy is a bit broad, its brilliant sense of fun keeps things going until a coda that relate the story directly to Army of the dead. Even though this prequel is tonally quite different and abandons the gore, fans of the first film should find an entertaining addition to it.

About Michael Sauers

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