Director: Matthias Schweighöfer
Writer: Shay Hatten
Starring: Matthias Schweighöfer, Nathalie Emmanuel, Ruby O. Fee, Stuart Martin, Guz Khan, and Jonathan Cohen
It’s been just under six months since Army of the Dead arrived on Netflix, and we already have the next instalment. This time a prequel centred around the safe-cracker Ludwig Dieter, one of the better characters from Zack Snyder’s film. This time around Ludwig himself, Matthias Schweighöfer, is in the director’s chair, replacing Snyder who helped create the story and serves as a producer.
The zombie outbreak, that featured in Army of the Dead, is being reported on the news, and Ludwig, whose real name is Sebastian Schlencht-Wöhnert, is watching potentially the beginning of the end of the world. He’s fed up with his banking job, instead his real passion is safe cracking. His YouTube channel, centred around safes has barely any views, until one day he receives a comment inviting him to a challenge. He goes, not really knowing what to expect, and ends up winning the competition. The next day, Gwendoline Starr (Nathalie Emmanuel), approaches him in a coffee shop. The whole thing was a set up to see if he was up for a real challenge, which he hesitantly accepts. The adventure eventually leads him to the exact moment we meet Ludwig in Army of the Dead.
While both films are available on Netflix, it’s not essential to have seen Army of the Dead, before watching Thieves. This is a completely stand-alone story, and while there are a few references and nods towards the original film, you won’t be missing out on much if you haven’t already seen it. In fact, it’s almost a good idea to watch this one first, because it lets you get to know Ludwig before the Vegas heist begins.
This one is centred around three infamous safes around Europe, that no one should be able to crack. Ludwig has spent his entire life following his passion for cracking safes, and he’s the perfect man for the job. If you’ve seen the original, then you’ll be familiar with the character. He’s put into the centre of the story here and is really given time to shine. Matthias Schweighöfer gives a great performance as him, and he’s instantly likable from the opening scene. The newcomers are also great, the way they play off each other makes the film funny and engaging throughout it’s over two hour run time.
Schweighöfer does a great job at making the film feel fun. The way the film is presented and general tone is upbeat and bouncing, with a playful score from Hans Zimmer and Steve Mazzaro. It is essentially three heist movies, rolled up into one. There’s a lot of humour and it lands. The film is also very self-aware with many moments that reference itself as a heist or spy film. Despite its overlong length, the film is the best heist film in recent years. The film does drag a little as it reaches the third act, and could have done with being shortened in places.
Army of Thieves is a strange follow-up to the first film. There are barely any zombies, except in dreams and in the news. The fast paced frantic energy is stepped up and the whole thing is really entertaining. Unlike a lot of prequels, it does feel like it adds to the original, which is probably due to them both being in production at the same time. It does feel a little long, not as long as Army of the Dead though, but it’s still a great addition to the heist genre.
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