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Film / Army of Thieves

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"This is about becoming legends."
Gwendoline: The world's distracted. This window of opportunity isn't just our only chance. It's yours.
Dieter: My only chance... for what?
Gwendoline: A life less ordinary.

Army of Thieves is a 2021 German-American heist-romantic comedy film directed by and starring Matthias Schweighöfer, produced by Zack Snyder, Deborah Snyder and Wesley Coller, and written by Shay Hatten, to be released on Netflix. It is a prequel to Snyder's Army of the Dead, which was released earlier in 2021. Hans Zimmer composed the soundtrack.

The story takes place across Europe six years before the events of Army of the Dead, during the beginning stages of the Las Vegas zombie outbreak. It follows German safecracker Ludwig Dieter (Schweighöfer), real name Sebastian Schlencht-Wöhnert, in his early days in that criminal field as he is hired by the mysterious thief known as Gwendoline Starr to pull off a series of heists with the help of a misfit crew of accomplished thieves. The targets that will put Dieter's skills to the test are three nigh-unopenable safes conceived by legendary locksmith Hans Wagner. All three are named after operas from Richard Wagner's The Ring of the Nibelung.

The film also stars Nathalie Emmanuel as Gwendoline, Guz Khan as Rolph, Ruby O. Fee as Korina, Stuart Martin as Brad Cage, Jonathan Cohen as Delacroix and Noémie Nakai as Beatrix. It was released worldwide on October 29, 2021.

Previews: Teaser, Trailer.

Army of Thieves contains examples of:

  • Ambiguous Time Period: There's no indication given as to when exactly Hans Wagner lived. At the very least it looks like the first half of The 20th Century, probably the 1930s considering the truck outside his workshop.
  • Artifact Title: There are only five thieves, hardly an army.
  • Ask a Stupid Question...: Sebastian/Dieter asks the others from the Caper Crew if it's "like in a movie film" about combining skillsets and working together to pull off heists. Gwendoline answers him that it's exactly that.
  • "Bang!" Flag Gun: Such guns are locked in the safes of the clandestine safecracking competition in Berlin. Contestants who manage to open the safes have to take them and press the trigger.
  • Bank Robbery: The crew Gwendoline assembles targets three safes located within banks throughout Europe.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The team succeeds at robbing all three safes and become criminal legends. However, everyone except Sebastian are arrested and face very long prison sentences. Sebastian is forced to flee to the US and assume the identity of Ludwig Dieter. There he will be recruited by Scott Ward for the ill-fated Las Vegas heist. It also makes the ending of Army of the Dead even more bitter/downer since Sebastian/Dieter and Gwendoline will never see each other again.
  • The Bully: In his Troubled Backstory Flashback, Alexis/Brad Cage was bullied in school, which motivated him to work out and become a "tough guy".
  • Catapult Nightmare: Sebastian had two nightmares about zombies with both acting as a Call-Forward to Army of the Dead and his eventual death, which Korina actually suggests along with saying it might be representative of his feelings of inadequacy and inability to be the strong action hero able to fight the zombies while Gwendoline suggests the more mundane idea that they are caused by the rational fear of the zombie outbreak.
  • Caper Crew: A whole heist team is assembled by Gwendoline, though it doesn't last past the second heist.
  • Comical Overreacting: Sebastian ends up being surprised by Gwendoline's sudden presence and spraying himself in his own hot coffee twice, with him overreacting the burn pain and exasperation each time.
  • Continuity Nod: Several to Army of the Dead:
    • The Las Vegas zombie outbreak is referenced in the news, with images of it on TV.
    • The Wagner safes the team has to bust open belong to Bly Tanaka (Hiroyuki Sanada), the billionaire who will plan the Las Vegas heist. There's also a photo of him.
    • Speaking of Tanaka, there's another "Bly's" casino, this time in Switzerland.
    • The film ends with a scene from Army of the Dead, where Sebastian (now named "Ludwig Dieter") was first introduced in Army of the Dead, with Scott Ward (Dave Bautista) and Maria Cruz (Ana de la Reguera) recruiting him for the Vegas job at his locksmith shop (which is named "Gwendoline", for reasons that are now obvious), and bringing him the blueprints for the last of Hans Wagner's Ring of the Nibelung safes, the Götterdämmerung. There is both Stock Footage from Army of the Dead and unused takes from that film.
  • Deadline News: During a news report on the zombie outbreak in Nevada, the reporters cut to a correspondent on the scene… just as he's being torn apart by the undead.
  • Did Not Get the Girl: Sebastian/Dieter ends up separated from Gwendoline as she gets arrested at the end. And if the end of Army of the Dead is anything to go by, he'll die without having ever seen her again.
  • Eiffel Tower Effect:
    • There's a scene set in Paris, and sure enough, it shows the Eiffel Tower.
    • The wide view on Prague, where the Vyšehrad Bridge, the Charles Bridge and the St. Vitus Cathedral within the Prague Castle can be seen. The freight train Sebastian climbs onto to escape the police crosses the Vyšehrad Bridge later on.
  • Failed a Spot Check: After Sebastian avoids being arrested after being betrayed by Cage he returns to his appartment. He is despondent and only wants to clean himself up. As he heads to the bathroom he completely missed the fact that Gwendoline and Korina are sitting at his kitchen table. They are so perplexed by the fact that he has completely missed their presence that they end up shouting "Suprise!" to get his attention.
  • Foreign Cuss Word: Korina in a certain point screams "Go take it up your ass!" in Portuguese.
  • Genre Shift: From a zombie action/horror flick to The Caper with Romantic Comedy elements. While the Zombie Apocalypse of the original film is happening and the war to contain it is raging, this film is set on a separate continent that's unaffected by it and thus the zombies only appear in news reports and Dieter's nightmares.
  • Given Name Reveal: It turns out "Ludwig Dieter" is an alias, the character's real name is Sebastian Schlencht-Wöhnert. He took the alias from the hero of the comic book he drew himself in his childhood.
  • Glory Seeker: Sebastian/Dieter seems more interested in the fact that he'll get to try safecracking the Ring Cycle safes of the legendary Hans Wagner than in the money that's in them. Gwendoline similarly cares more about cracking these specific safes for the notoriety of doing so as opposed to the cash haul, which is hardly any more significant than what they could make knocking over a more mundane bank.
  • Hero Antagonist: The Interpol agents trying to stop the protagonists are cops trying to stop a gang of criminals.
  • Hero Stole My Bike: Sebastian tries stealing two bicycles when trying to escape the police in Prague. The first attempt is unsuccessful, the second works.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Cornered by Delacroix and in a Mexican Standoff, Gwendoline agrees to give herself up if Delacroix agrees to let Sebastian escape, reasoning that he's a nobody and Delacroix will more than make a name for himself catching an international jewel thief. Delacroix reluctantly agrees rather than risk a shoot-out.
  • Hollywood Density: Averted here. Sebastian notes that even the smallest bank has way more cash than they can realistically transport. Gwendoline points out that they have no intention of stealing all of it, directing him to the largest bills so they can maximize the amount they steal in the duffel bags they've brought along.
  • Interpol Special Agent: "Interpol" is a police agency that goes on the field in the film, while in Real Life it's an international organization that facilitates worldwide police cooperation, police training and crime control and doesn't send police agents on the field (national polices do, after being informed by Interpol).
  • Interquel: Takes place between the opening sequence of Army of the Dead and the main action of that film — essentially, during the credits montage.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: Sebastian repeatedly compares what's going on to the movies.
  • Let No Crisis Go to Waste: The Vegas Zombie Apocalypse provides the perfect opportunity to break into the three Wagner safes, as international attention will be focused on America and no one will look too closely at the thefts. Unfortunately, Delacroix has a personal vendetta against the team and is paying attention.
  • Lighter and Softer: Set an ocean away from the outbreak in Nevada, this film is less bloody and grim, focusing more on humor and lower stakes. Nobody dies as a result of the heists.
  • Nixon Mask: Brad Cage puts one on before causing chaos in the band when the Walküre heist starts not going as well as planned.
  • No Honor Among Thieves: Brad Cage and Rolph are perfectly willing to abandon a team member to the police rather than sharing the loot, though the latter at least feels bad about it.
  • No-Sell: Sebastian punches Cage in the face towards the end. Cage barely reacts while Dieter screams in pain from hitting his hand on bone.
  • Once More, with Clarity: Delacroix arrives too late at the Swiss bank to prevent the Siegfried heist. It's revealed that Korina actually called the bank earlier while impersonating an Interpol officer, advising them to move the safe, and Gwendoline and Sebastian stole the truck that was to move the safe away. Plus, Korina faked radio transmissions to fool Delacroix's communications expert.
  • Once Upon a Time: Used by Sebastian when he's recounting the story of Hans Wagner and his safes.
    "Once upon a time, in faraway land called Munich... Ahem, faraway, that is, if you are one of my international friends..."
  • Put on a Prison Bus: Brad Cage, Rolph, Korina, and Gwendoline are all last seen getting arrested, while Sebastian/Dieter flees to the USA.
  • Refuge in Audacity: The heist plan depends on the fact that the safes are considered to be uncrackable and everyone assumes that professional thieves would go after easier targets. No one expects a group of thieves to try to crack all three of them in succession within a few days of each other. The Siegfried heist runs almost purely on audacity since the target is on high alert and the team has lost most of its resources. They rely on the fact that Interpol believes the safe will be moved at 5 AM, but the thieves stole the whole thing 90 minutes previously.
  • Ripped from the Headlines: Korina was responsible for a leak of Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest many years prior to the film. This appears to be based on an incident involving a later film in the same series, where hackers threatened to release the film online in sections unless they were paid a ransom by Disney.
  • Safecracking: Sebastian's lifelong passion is safes and how to crack them. After he wins a safecracking competition, he gets recruited for the heists by Gwendoline as a result, not to mention his own knowledge about the targets of the heist and their maker.
  • Saved by Canon: As this is a prequel to Army of the Dead, Dieter is guaranteed to survive the heists and join up with the mercenaries sent to steal $200 million from the Götterdammerung safe in Las Vegas.
  • Screams Like a Little Girl: Just like he did in Army of the Dead, Sebastian/Dieter lets some high-pitched screams out several times during tense moments and action scenes, as well as when he spills hot drinks on himself.
  • Serial Escalation: The safes get progressively more complex, with more combination dials and safeguards against cracking. The final safe has trillions of possible combinations in a set of seven combination locks.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The three safes the team has to open are named Rheingold, Walküre and Siegfried. All are the titles of the first three operas of Richard Wagner's The Ring of the Nibelung tetralogy. The fourth safe (named after the fourth and final opera of the tetralogy), Götterdämmerung, is the target of the Las Vegas heist in Army of the Dead. And the guy who built them is named Hans Wagner, because of course.
    • Brad Cage's Richard Nixon mask during the second heist is a homage to Point Break.
  • Soul-Crushing Desk Job: Sebastian works as a bank employee initially, and he is visibly not happy with that job, doing his best to not listen to his clients' useless rantings and ramblings.
  • Standard Snippet: While safecracking all three safes named after operas from Richard Wagner's The Ring of the Nibelung tetralogy, Sebastian/Dieter has excerpts from the operas play on his phone:
    • Rheingold gets "Ihr Andern Harrt Bis Abend Hier" (the descent of Wotan and Loge to Nibelheim).
    • Walküre gets, naturally, "Walkürenritt" (the Ride of the Valkyries).
    • Siegfried gets the "Finale" of its namesake opera (Siegfried wakes the Valkyrie Brünnhilde up from her magical sleep, and the two start their romance).
  • Starting a New Life: Sebastian, as "Ludwig Dieter" after fleeing to the USA at the end. He opens his Gwendoline locksmith business in California.
  • Stupid Question Bait: When the team is gathered for the first time, Gwendoline asks "Any questions?", and nobody except,, of course,, Sebastian answers to her ("Yes, many, hundreds!").
  • Tag Line:
    • "More safes. Less zombies."
    • "Nothing is a safe bet."
    • "You don't have to go to Vegas to get lucky".
    • "Vegas isn't the only place to win big."
  • Time for Plan B: The Walküre heist rapidly goes South and the elevators get locked, so Brad Cage steps in to "attack" the bank as diversion with a Richard Nixon mask to buy time for Gwendoline and Sebastian/Dieter in the vault.
  • Too Dumb to Live: The news correspondent in Las Vegas. He went a little too close to the zombies and got Devoured by the Horde.
  • Trailers Always Lie: The film's trailers made it appear as if all of the Ring Cycle vaults were owned by Bly Tanaka, when in reality Tanaka only owns the Götterdämmerung and is mentioned in passing during the heist's initial Info Dump to further foreshadow Sebastian's inevitable fate in Vegas.
  • Tranquillizer Dart: Brad Cage's firearms (outside of his shotgun) are loaded with tranquillizer darts for the heists to avoid fatalities.
  • Two Girls to a Team: Gwendoline and Korina are the only two feminine members of the heist team.
  • Undead Child: Due to the news of the Vegas zombie outbreak, Sebastian has nightmares filled with zombies. In one of them, a zombified little girl jumps at his throat.
  • Unfolding Plan Montage: Double Subverted during the Rheingold heist. A nervous Sebastian is walked through the plan to get into the vault by Gwendoline, which is depicted as a voice over atop the actual events. After the team leaves with the loot, the scene suddenly cuts to Sebastian inside their van, asking if it is really going to be that easy, implying the entire sequence was an Imagine Spot, until a perplexed Gwendoline tells him "We already did it", and Sebastian looks down to see his arms full of banknotes. Apparently his brain just needed a few seconds to catch up with his first robbery.
  • Your Princess Is in Another Castle!: Delacroix arrives to stop the Walküre heist but is told that his information is out of date. The safe has been recently moved to a different bank.
  • Zombie Apocalypse: Images of the Las Vegas zombie outbreak can be seen on TV, which the news precisely describe as a "zombie apocalypse".