Written by Alexander Reams
It’s always clear when Netflix trusts their IPs and their creators. Clearly, they have trust in Zack “I will make movies however long I want and you’ll like it” Snyder, and I am okay with it. They let him make a wild, fun, huge zombie/action/Dave Bautista one-liner film and it was a blast. Not 6 months later a prequel film focusing on standout Ludwig Dieter was released with Matthias Schweighöfer returning as the awkward and lovable safe-cracker and also jumping in the director’s chair as well. Bringing his own style that somehow fits into the universe that Snyder created while also standing by itself as well.
Before zombies took over Las Vegas and turned it into their own playground, there was a life for Ludwig Dieter. Not much of one, make a YouTube video (that gets no views), get coffee, go to work (where he clearly does not care), and go home. Repeat, every day, until he finally gets a view on one of his videos, and a comment. Things are looking up for old Ludwig until he gets a very mysterious invite to a safe-cracking competition. Here he is able to show off his skills and impress jewel thief Gwendoline. After making quick work of his competitors he is recruited to the team. Consisting of Korina Dominguez (a woefully underrated Ruby O. Fee), Brad Cage (a generic bad guy with the funniest name; Stuart Martin), Rolph (standout Guz Khan).
As with the previous entry in the Army of the Dead Snyder-Netflix-verse, there is money involved, but a lot less of those pesky undead folks getting in the way of good old-fashioned money stealing. Instead, this time we have a pesky- and stop me if you’ve heard this one before- Interpol agent with a connection to one of the heisters from the past who now is obsessive over catching the entire team so much that it affects his personality to comic results. While this was funny at first Delecroix outstayed his welcome very quickly. The cat and mouse aspect is one of the key elements of a heist film and was executed here very poorly, which unfortunately falls on Writer Shay Hatten (who returns to this universe after co-writing with Zack Snyder on Army of the Dead).
These YouTube videos that Ludwig makes are often the subject of fictional safe-maker Hans Wagner (and the Richard Wagner connection is only beginning). After a long stint of being in a creative rut, and losing his wife and children, Wagner creates his version of his namesake’s Ring Cycle. For Hans, it means four safes, each inspired by one of the operas in the Ring Cycle (at this point in the film the classical music nerd in me was losing his mind over the love for Wagner present). Those three safes are Das Rheingold, Die Walküre, and the Siegfried. The final safe was lost and never found, the one that completes the Ring Cycle, the Götterdämmerung.
Four key aspects that meshed together very well and elevated the film to a high quality level of humor and heart. Firstly, Hans Zimmer and Steve Mazzaro’s score. Combining a mesh of strings and modern sounds to make a soundtrack that constantly controlled the tension perfectly, especially in the safe-cracking scenes. Secondly and thirdly, the editing by Alexander Berner and the cinematography by Bernhard Jasper. Constantly on beat with the music and never quick cutting during action sequences, especially during the Prague burglary. Jasper chose to use the Alexa Mini LF, which is not a loss in quality compared to larger Alexa cameras, but is lighter so can be used in faster-paced films.
Finally, Director, star, king of beautiful curly hair, Matthias Schweighöfer. Without his love and care for this project and this character the film would not work. Snyder made the right move trusting Schweighöfer to expand the universe he set up, and he expanded it well. Throwing in subtle nods to what’s to come, a news report here, a name drop there, all adding up to two surprising cameos in the end. This will be one of the most underrated films of the year and incidentally one of my favorites, from the technical aspects, the subtle humor that never beats you over the head, the score, and the fact that a modern film can appreciate such perfect classical music.
Bring on the Götterdämmerung.
Army of Thieves Trailer