Early this year, Netflix and Zack Snyder introduced us to the zombie-plagued world of Army of the Dead. It’s easy to say that the film was a huge success — becoming one of the most-watched original Netflix films with an estimated 75 million unique views over its first four weeks and simultaneously earning an estimate of $1 million at the box office in the United States. The world of Army of the Dead, however, is far from over with several projects in the works but more importantly, just this past week Netflix released a prequel entitled, Army of Thieves.
Despite Zack Snyder not returning to direct this prequel, it is safe to say that he still did everything in his power to keep the story consistent to the first film with his new roles as a co-writer and producer. The exciting part however with the production of Army of Thieves is that the star, Matthias Schweighöfer, will also take over as the director for the film giving Matthias an opportunity to showcase his skills both in front and behind the camera.
For more on Army of the Dead and Zack Snyder:
- Army Of The Dead Sneak Peek: First 15 Minutes Locked Behind Virtual Heist
- The Worst and Best of Zack Snyder
One question that may be on the mind of most viewers however is: if the film would stand up against Snyder’s zombie heist epic? We went ahead to check out the film in its entirety to see if this prequel would actually live up to the hype set up by its predecessor. Here’s our full review of Army of Thieves:
Army of Thieves Overview
The film sets the stage and mood by giving us a much-needed context on a legendary tale set in Munich wherein a master safe maker named Hans Wagner, wields his magnum opus called the Ring Cycle. The four safes are named after the four great compositions of Richard Wagner – The Rheingold, The Valkyrie, The Siegfried, and the Götterdämmerung. This tale becomes central to the story of Ludwig Dieter who we come to know in this film as Sebastian Schlencht-Wöhnert. Sebastian lives a very mundane life in Potsdam as a bank-teller who also uses his spare time uploading videos regarding his passion for safecracking on a very unsuccessful Youtube channel. Despite a growing zombie pandemic that so far has been limited to Nevada in the United States (this gives viewers the reminder of the shared universe to Army of the Dead), Sebastian continues to live discontented with his boring life.
Things quickly and completely change for Sebastian however, when a beautiful and mysterious woman by the name of Gwendoline recruits him to be a part of her rag-tag group of international robbers. Gwendoline is one of the most wanted thieves in the world together with her boyfriend who thinks of himself as a real-life action hero, Brad Cage. They are joined by the tech-savvy hacker Korina, their getaway driver Rolph and are now rounding out the team even further is Sebastian with his safe-cracking skills. Throughout the film, the gang works together using their individual set of skills to pull off three bank heists in Paris, Munich, and Switzerland – the home of the first three safes in The Ring Cycle. They must all race against time and agents from Interpol led by Delacroix and Beatrix, to pull off one of the greatest heists of all time.
Army of Thieves Review: Spoiler Warnings
To avoid any spoilers on the show, we will focus more on the characters, visuals, and overall continuity to the Army of the Dead universe.
Matthias Schweighöfer Steals The Show
The cast of Army of Thieves gives a mixed range of performances from sure-fire standouts to some that were a bit cliche bordering on becoming boring. The biggest revelation in this film undoubtedly belongs to the star of the show and the man behind the director’s chair. Matthias definitely delivered in giving his best for both roles as he was able to provide a fantastic cinematic experience as a director while showcasing how brilliant he is as an actor. Matthias captures an entirely different kind of Dieter in this film which dives deeper and deeper into a man who has more depth than we could have possibly imagined. The character first served in a witty and quirky role in the Army of the Dead film — bringing some fun, humor, and an overall freshness to the somewhat serious film. The personality of the character shines even more in this movie just as we thought that we couldn’t fall in love with the character anymore, through the film Army of Thieves we are greatly proven wrong.
Another standout character in our books is Gwendoline Starr, the world-renowned thief. Despite somewhat having a complicated motive for stealing, Gwendoline’s character develops into becoming extremely deep and complex which is matched perfectly with Nathalie Emmanuel’s portrayal. She serves as a great foil and contrast to Ludwig Dieter’s character due to her more adventurous outlook in life while being driven by the thrills and risks that the robberies provide.
What the film does however fail to really achieve is consistency in the other actors and characters in the film. Despite Ludwig Dieter, Gwendoline, and maybe even Korina who has her share of great moments, the rest fall flat and don’t really contribute much to the story itself. Brad Cage, the muscle man, and antagonist in the film, fails in giving us viewers a truly worthy villain as his character is just an exaggeration of bad guy tropes that are not done any justice. Furthermore, the other characters fade into the background and never really recover as the film tried to squeeze in so many heist movie tropes like the cop looking for vengeance and justice but just ultimately became over-exaggerated and unintentionally satirical.
Continuity At Its Finest
Beyond the title and presence of Ludwig Dieter, there are several things that the film gets right in establishing the shared Army of the Dead universe. It first and foremost creates a deeper love and fascination for Ludwig Dieter. We get to understand him more and fall in love with his quirky personality in this film. The film excellently establishes a deeper understanding of the driving forces and motives for Ludwig which in all honesty elevates the first film even more in regards to his character. We see that Ludwig’s fascination with safes especially the one that they encounter in the Bly Casino in Army of the Dead is extremely personal and is rooted in a deep-seated desire to unlock even some memories that Ludwig may have locked up in the past.
Admittedly there are some moments that we have forgotten the shared space that the two films have due to the fast-paced and thrilling events, the totally different genre, and finally the lack of zombies. There were some scenes that established the zombie aspect and some were done really great but at the same time it felt as if it was just a slight reminder slapped on the screen to tell viewers the “Yes, all of these are happening while zombies are ruling over Nevada.” We honestly missed some of the gore and zombie-infested horrors that the first film had however it is still understandable given the completely different direction and genre that this film focuses on.
A Unique Delivery for A Common Story
Let’s be honest, the genre and story of heist films can tend to be overused and repeated due to the sheer amount that is already available. In recent years we have even gotten an entire series such as Money Heist and a film franchise like Fast and the Furious that have delved into similar plot points as well. What makes this film stand out however is the tone and mood that it contains. The film has an overall direction that is reminiscent of great action films like The Kingsman, Wanted and Now You See Me. The first half-hour brilliantly painted such an amazing exposition that keeps audiences excited for what will occur next. Admittedly it loses its footing midway becoming quite a cliche but ultimately it stands back up to give us a fitting and appropriate ending. Matthias Schweighöfer was able to take all the classic heist film tropes while placing his own unique spin on things. So despite sharing the stage with other heist films the humor, quirkiness, and upbeat nature of this film sets it apart in spades.
Outstanding Visuals and Musical Scoring
Army of Thieves spares no expense in the attention to detail and top-notch visuals that it provides which elevate the story even further. The shots are nice, crisp, and clean which are paired with amazing edits as well. The scenes in particular that involve a peek into the safes that Ludwig attempts to crack are just amazing as viewers are able to witness the dials, knobs, and gears turning from the inside. This adds a nice visual treat as well as a small in-depth look into safe cracking. Hans Zimmer once again proves why he is one of the best in the industry with beautifully timed scoring that brings everything to life. All of these are chosen perfectly to match the unique mood and tone set by the entire movie.
Army of Thieves Verdict
In all honesty, we can go on and on about this movie. That’s how much we enjoyed it! We definitely recommend Army of Thieves for its intense storyline, lovable characters, and the fact that it is simply fun and enjoyable to see. We are excited for the growing world of Zack Snyder’s characters from Army of the Dead and Army of Thieves which we will see more of in an animated series and hopefully a full-length sequel as well.
In the meantime, we recommend that you binge-watch both Army of Thieves and then Army of the Dead on Netflix for an exciting experience.
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