Army of Thieves stands out from its already original genre

Melanie Medina - Duque
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This review contains spoilers for the Army of Thieves.

Clad in a controversial storyline, a thorny relationship, and overturned friendships that ceased to exist in the first place, Sebastian Schlencht-Wöhnert’s mundane life is interrupted when an unknown woman approaches him, but only to ask him to assist in breaking into a puzzling series of impossible-to-crack safes across Europe. On July 25, 2021, Netflix unveiled its first teaser trailer for the film which premiered at the San Diego Comic-Con. In the special panel, the team discussed the upcoming prequel as producer Deborah Snyder said, “Who’s done a prequel where it’s a different genre of film? To me, this is more of a romantic, comedy, heist film than anything else. It just happens to live in this world where zombies are in the U.S. and it’s causing the banking system some instability.”

Directed and written by dominant actor Matthias Schweighöfer, along with Zach Snyder and Shay Hatten, Army of Thieves is a Netflix film that focuses on bank-teller Sebastian Schlencht-Wöhnert’s life in Potsdam. A zombie outbreak begins in Nevada—and has yet to reach Europe. The zombies haunt his thoughts and dreams and leaves him in a daze. The movie begins with Sebastian publishing a video on the internet about safecracking, and we later learn that he does it in his spare time. His videos garner no attention until his latest post receives one view, alongside a single comment from a cloaked figure who invites him to an underground safecracking competition in the city. He is then announced unmistakably victorious by the host, but oblivious to the unwavering eyes in the crowd.

I found that the further I went on, the more amusing the storyline was. I’m not particularly a huge fan of the different social media platforms we use—YouTube, Tiktok, Twitter—so I’m really tired of seeing it in movies because instead of it being realistic, it’s just unnatural. I also find movies these days are trying too hard to be quirky, which ticks me off. I’m surprised I stuck with watching such a recent movie, since I tend to have isolated tastes, and those tastes often pilot to some older films.

The queer figure was then identified as Gwendoline Starr, a skilled jewel thief, that commented upon his video. Turns out, she wanted him to be part of a heist crew consisting of herself, expert hacker Korina, getaway driver Rolph, and gunman Brad Cage with the intention of breaking into three banks that have the three safes created by legendary locksmith Hans Wagner. Sebastian is then convinced by Gwendoline to join them for the challenge of breaking into a Wagner safe. Successfully undertaking their first heist in Paris, they throw a party to memorialize the group’s first victory. Sebastian then seems to develop feelings for Gwendoline, drawing jealousy from Brad, her boyfriend since their teenage years when his name was Alexis. This was all going on while the zombie outbreak was dominating the international news networks.

I was puzzled because while Sebastian was busy cracking safes, the zombie outbreak was constantly brought up as if it would be an important asset later on in the story. It influenced hallucinations and curious nightmares of his own reflection staring back at him. One of his many visions consisted of a small girl who appeared to become impure by the very same infection. Oftentimes, he would jolt awake whenever one of his strange dreams occurred. I later found there was a similar film, with a similar name. Bewildered, but not surprised, I stumbled upon a movie named Army of the Dead—which took place 6 years after. In September 2020, it was announced that the prequel was in development at Netflix. Filming took place in Germany and the Czech Republic and finished in December 2020.

A few days following, the crew traveled to Prague—the location of the second safe—and are followed by Delacroix, an obsessive Interpol agent leading a unit that has been trying to capture Gwendoline and the crew for years after Brad shot him in his upper thigh during a theft. Upon entering the bank, Sebastian and Gwendoline are soon identified by security, forcing Brad to create a distraction with a pretend robbery. He cracks the second safe, leaving with Gwendoline and another haul of money as Delacroix and his team race to the bank to stop them. Brad is shot in the shoulder by a security guard and narrowly escapes the bank ahead of Sebastian and Gwendoline. As the team flees, Brad deliberately pushes Sebastian onto the moving road, forcing him to shake off the pursuing police alone.

With gleaming unmoving eyes and a stiff back, Sebastian goes and does not look back—vowing to be reunited with her one day.”

Brad appeared to be jealous of the fact that Sebastian was “stealing” his childhood love. Following his outburst, Gwendoline and Korina part ways with Rolph and Brad to find Sebastian. Although the original plan was to ditch Sebastian after the three heists were complete, the women head back to Potsdam and reunite with Sebastian, telling him that the pursuit of the Wagner challenge is more important to them than any monetary gain. The trio head to St. Moritz, the location of the last safe in Europe, whilst Interpol also arrives. Delacroix’s team believes they have a lead on the theft, only to be tricked again by them. They hijacked the safe during its transfer from the casino. Their hijacking also derails Brad and Rolph’s idea to rob the safe themselves. Gwendoline and Sebastian leave St. Moritz on a lorry, chased by Brad and Rolph. Korina, caught by Interpol, manages to warn them about the other two. Sebastian then succeeds in cracking the safe while in a moving truck.

Before fleeing on a boat, Sebastian and Gwendoline confess their mutual feelings for each other, but Delacroix is one step ahead, already holding both at gunpoint. Out of love for Sebastian, Gwendoline realizes she is most wanted by Delacroix and admits that she’s the one he’s looking for. She promises to find Sebastian once she is free.

Sometime later, Scott Ward and Maria Cruz find Sebastian’s (now Ludwig’s) locksmith shop in California. They offer him the chance to crack Wagner’s legendary “missing” safe, which Gwendoline and Sebastian had decided to crack together once she was free; Ludwig Dieter accepts the job.

On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, 71% of 78 reviews are positive, with an average rating of 6.10/10 stars. The website’s critics consensus reads, “Army of Thieves doesn’t reinvent the heist thriller, but director-star Matthias Schweighöfer proves an appealing presence on both sides of the camera.”

Army of Thieves was released on Oct. 29th, 2021 and is now on Netflix. The beautiful storyline, dulcet camera work, the special images taken, each scene’s significance to the film, and the acting created a supple story of a jewelry thief and safe-cracking mastermind.