Review by Sean Boelman
The heist movie is one of the best guilty pleasure genres, as there is an undeniable level of joy in watching thieves execute a convoluted plan to rip off the rich. Jaume Balagueró’s The Vault is a bit overlong, with a lot of dull filler before we get to the actual robbery, but that climactic sequence is pretty fun.
The film follows a genius engineering student who is recruited by a treasure hunter to recover artifacts from the Bank of Spain’s vault that were confiscated by the Spanish government. It’s a very thin story devised for the purpose of forcing these thieves to come up with a complex plan to break an impressive safe.
Perhaps the biggest issue with the movie is its pacing. Although planning is a necessary element of any heist movie, this film is nearly two hours long, of which more than an hour is the build-up. A mini-heist keeps the excitement going as the movie pushes into the second act, but this easily could have been a ninety minute flick.
What will likely be the main draw of the film is the eponymous chamber, protected by a defense system that threatens to drown anyone who dares to attempt a robbery. It’s a really fascinating feat of engineering, and it’s based on truth, albeit with some dramatic liberties taken, adding an extra layer of intrigue to the movie.
The production design is impressive, as the replicas of the bank are really well-done. Other than that, the film is a mostly standard action flick in terms of execution, with rapid editing, mostly straightforward cinematography, and a few memorable sequences. It’s definitely not among the stylish entries in the genre, but Balagueró’s movie is at least entertaining.
If there is one thing that is significantly missing from the film, it is character development. The protagonist is extremely underwritten, with basically no motivations whatsoever. The female lead is mostly a romantic interest for the hero, but has a few scenes in which she shines. All of the rest of the players are various stock characters.
It can be a little hard to believe Freddie Highmore in this role. He’s just a bit too deadpan in his delivery to be a charming scholar-turned-reluctant-criminal. Sam Riley is a highlight as the more experienced thief, although he is over-the-top. And in the supporting cast, Liam Cunningham and Famke Jannasen are underused as background forces.
The Vault certainly isn’t an exceptional entry into the heist genre, but it’s competent enough to be watchable. It’s one good thirty-minute set piece with a bunch of filler around it, so take that as you will.
The Vault hits VOD on March 26.