Army of Thieves trades zombies for feelings
Has Zack Snyder made the ultimate heist movie?
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Hello, I’m Joseph Lew and welcome back to another week of Netflix Pause. I’m ashamed to admit this but, back in the day, I used to be a bit of a kleptomaniac. I’d pinch whatever I could get my hands on – Pokémon cards, school arts supplies, a particularly tempting KitKat – nothing was safe. In my defence though, I was only six.
Nowadays, without the luxury of chubby cheeks to get me out of trouble, I’ve left my criminal mastermind past behind. Instead, I’ve been living vicariously through titles such as Money Heist, Trinkets, and, more recently, Army of Thieves, a robbery from Zack Snyder’s ‘Army of’ world.
Army of Thieves
Zack Snyder is unequivocally a master of the action genre. We’ve come to expect an exhilarating brilliance from his work, and while Army of Thieves indeed delivers, there’s also an unexpected tenderness that Justice League, Man of Steel, and Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole barely graze the surface of. The film can’t be described as anything other than a feast for the senses – the storytelling is evocative, visually-spectacular and hauntingly memorable.
Directed by Matthias Schweighöfer (who also plays Dieter/Sebastian), this film is set six years before Vegas zombie-heist romp Army of the Dead. Army of the Thieves provides a backstory to the specialist safe-cracker, who in the later film, is taken to Nevada to open the legendary Götterdämmerung safe. In this timeline, Dieter is but a miserable office teller who goes by Sebastian, and the zombie apocalypse is in its infancy. Through glimpses of his day-to-day life, we uncover the dreariness of his existence, punctuated only by fleeting moments of joy when he's demonstrating his vault-related vocabulary.
Although Sebastian’s aloof charm, thick German drawl, and rotating wardrobe of Depop-esque bowling polos make him appear almost caricature-like, beneath it all rests a carefully constructed vignette into the human condition. While bordering on piteous at times, a balancing act of fourth-wall breaking dialogue and emotionally sincere moments prevents the character from actually venturing into this territory, cleverly transforming him into a complicated and endearing object of our affection.
This movie might have dialled down on the zombies – they only make an appearance here and there – but in true Snyder fashion, Army of Thieves is yet another work of “pure unashamed stimulation”. This time, instead of a zombie tiger, he treats us to THREE (!) separate heists, a bike chase (?!) that’ll have you on the edge of your seat, a Hans Zimmer score, and a colourful mishmash of quirky and iconic characters, including mysterious fugitive Gwendoline (Nathalie Emmanuel), vindictive interpol agent Vince Freeye Delacroix (Jonathan Cohen), and the pinnacle of assholery, Brad Cage (Stuart Martin), who you can’t convince me isn’t Hugh Jackman circa 2008.
Snyder and Schweighöfer deliver the grit, guts, and sacrifice we’ve come to know and love in a Pan-European sensory smorgasbord that ticks all the boxes. It’s comfortingly familiar but still manages to stand on its own, cracking that perfect balance between timeless and innovative. You can’t help but root for Sebastian; he’s relatable, funny, and endearing – a combination which Snyder cleverly uses to suck you even deeper into his fictional world.
Army of Thieves might not have undead tigers, nuclear explosions, or Omari Hardwick as a chainsaw-wielding zombie slayer, but this entropic masterpiece will leave you wondering if Snyder has finally cracked the code for the perfect action film.
Army of Thieves is streaming tonight from 5:30pm AEDT.
Watch these too:
Army of the Dead, if you’re chomping at the bit for more Zach Snyder action. Set six years after Army of Thieves, the film follows a squad of mercenaries (including Dieter), as they head to Las Vegas to pull off the ultimate heist. Oh, and did I mention there are zombies?!
Sense8, for another safe-cracking Berliner in the form of the glorious Max Riemelt. Directed by The Matrix’s Wachowski sisters, this series is a cinematographically superb exploration of identity, connection, and empathy in the face of difference.
Heist, for the true-crime fanatics. A six-part documentary series, this show has it all: bourbons, balaclavas, and a shit-tonne of cash.
Good Girls, for some more tongue-in-cheek humour. Suburban mums Beth, Annie, and Ruby will do whatever it takes to provide for their kids, even if that means building a money-laundering empire.
Money Heist, which inspired the Halloween costume of years past. This is a show which, suffice to say, contains horny criminals, “incredibly European” throes of passion, and twists that will have you looking like this.
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The Jonas Brothers Family Roast, which is dropping Netflix on November 23. The special will have guest appearances from Niall Horan, Pete Davidson, Gabriel ‘Fluffy’ Iglesias, Lily Singh, and more. After this recent Tiktok post, I’m expecting some zingers.
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