A heist movie doesn’t need much to be an effectively entertaining ride. An electrifying atmosphere helps, along with a few characters you can get behind, and an impossible goal to achieve. Even when formulaic, there can be a good time to be had. And that’s the mindset you’ll want to have going into The Vault, a Euro heist thriller that follows virtually all of the genre’s tropes, but does so with the snappy energy of Spain’s 2010 World Cup victory as its backdrop.
Freddie Highmore is brilliant young engineer Thom Laybrick, fresh out of college and expected to strike it big in the world of business. But Thom doesn’t want any of that, and when approached by the mysterious Lorraine (Astrid Bergès-Frisbey) with a unique job offer to help a team of criminals bust into the impenetrable Bank of Spain in Madrid to retrieve a valuable treasure, he can hardly refuse the challenge.
Like any good heist film, The Vault spends much of its time on figuring out the details and establishing character relationships. The team is led by the grizzled Walter Moreland (Ser Davos…er, Liam Cunningham), with James (Sam Riley) as his deep-sea-diving right-hand-man. Together, they defied the odds and found this pirate treasure at the bottom of the sea, only to have it confiscated by the Spanish government. Now, Walter wants it back and will stop at nothing to get it, and certainly won’t be deterred by a bulldog Head of Security hot on their trail. Thom, a newbie at all of this, ruffles the feathers of some of the others, while his close relationship to Lorraine could either hinder or bolster the entire mission.
Jaume Balagueró directs in no-nonsense fashion, capturing the thrill of the plan and the nationalistic zeal of the World Cup games being viewed by thousands literally just outside the building. The feel is closer to The Italian Job or The Bank Job, two fairly grounded films by heist standards, than to the coolness of an Ocean’s Eleven or the rhythm of a Baby Driver. The crime itself has its share of thrills, one watery close-call, and at least one surprising character swerve. They do something pretty clever with ice, as Thom’s intellect pays off in more ways than one.
Highmore has been a terrific actor since he was a kid, but he’s way too reserved here for someone who is meant to be exhilarated by this daring course his life has taken. The kind of vitality we expect from Thom is instead seen in Walter, with the great Liam Cunningham snarling his way through every scene. He’s like an old ship captain barking orders at his crew and it’s great. There are other solid turns from Bergès-Frisbey, the ever-consistent Riley, and Famke Janssen as Margaret, a government official with her own angle to play.
The Vault is like comfort food for the fan of heist thrillers. The pace is steady and breezy, and I imagine those who follow football will get a kick out of the World Cup playing such a key role.