The Vault is a 2021 Spanish heist thriller. It is also known as Way Down in various regions. Jaume Balagueró has directed the English language Spanish film. While Rowan Athale, Michel Gaztambide, Borja Glez. Santaolalla, Andres Koppel, Rafa Martinez have written the screenplay. The producers of the movie are Álvaro Augustin, Ghislain Barrois, Freddie Highmore, Eneko Lizarraga, Fransisco Sánchez. Arnau Bataller is responsible for the music score. Daniel Aranyó is at the helm of cinematography. Whereas David Gilbert is the editor. The film is a co-production between companies Ciudano Ciskul, El Tesoro de Drake AIE, Telecinco Cinema, and Think Studio. The film saw a Spanish release courtesy of the distributor Sony Pictures Releasing. TF1 has distributed the film worldwide.
Freddie Highmore plays one of the leads as Thom Laybrick. Ástrid Bergès-Frisbey plays another lead Lorraine. Sam Riley is playing James while Liam Cunningham is playing Walter Moreland. Luis Tosar stars as Simon, Axel Stein stars as Klaus, and José Coronado plays Gustavo. Finally, Famke Janssen plays Margaret, and Emilio Gutiérrez Caba stars as Chairman. The film got a theatrical release in Brazil and Taiwan on January 15, 2021. It is made in both Spanish and English.
The Vault — Premise
The film revolves around a heist that involves stealing a treasure from a vault inside the Bank of Spain. And the vault is supposed to be the safest one in the whole world. The backstory starts when a marine archaeologist discovers and extracts a treasure from a drowned ship. However, the Spanish government seizes the treasure and locks it up inside a vault that’s kept inside the Bank of Spain. A heist is planned and Walter Moreland leads the team to break in and steal the treasure from the bank’s vault. The story then follows them as they plan and then execute the heist. There is success and then there are twists in the forms of double-crosses. There are more twists and at the end, the team is breaking into the bank of England.
Thom is the lead character and is a genius engineering graduate. He takes great interest in the safe inside the Bank of Spain. The building of the bank is more than 100 years old. It doesn’t have any blueprints available because it’s that ancient. Then there’s a very tough security system to crack. There’s an underground river that will flood the safe in case of a breach. When Thom learns that the safe is going to house a seized treasure for 10 days, he concocts a plan. Together with a charismatic art dealer Walter “Cunningham”, he devises an intricate plan to steal the treasure. The plan is reliant on a big football match that will be broadcast nationwide. Coincidentally, it will also be broadcasting on a huge screen near the bank. As the employees would watch the game, the team will have to pull off the Heist within 105 minutes.
Treasure, Government, Vault, and A Heist
It all starts with Walter Moreland (Liam Cunningham), who is a treasure boat captain. He has successfully extracted a treasure from a centuries-old sunken shipwreck. After years of collective efforts of his team, the treasure still ends up getting seized by Spanish officials. He seeks help from international courts to get it back but to no avail. That’s when British Intelligence official Margaret (Famke Janssen) advises him to look for alternative routes. So Moreland gets working and enlists several individuals excelling in various skills. The team includes an ex-spy James (Sam Riley), master of disguises Lorraine (Astrid Bergès-Frisbey), the muscle of the group Simon (Luis Tosar), and the techy Klaus (Axel Stein). The team then also enlists a genius engineering graduate Thom (Freddie Highmore) to crack the safe.
There are a couple of troublesome challenges to the heist, to say the least. The treasure happens to be locked up inside a centuries-old underground vault. There’s also a system installed in there that lets a river flood the safe when it’s breached. No one has ever been able to crack the mystery behind the system and how it works. One more thing, this flooding vault is based on a real-life attraction in Madrid. Back to the film, the plan to steal the treasure is helped by the setting it will take place in. The events are set during the 2010 World Cup as Spain is racing towards the finale. The sporting event will be broadcast all over the nation and also on a huge screen outside the bank. The team carries out its high-stakes heist during this diversion with only 105 minutes to execute it.
The Vault Takes a No-Nonsense Approach
The Vault is a slightly different heist movie among similar movies of the recent past. It is a heist movie but it takes a different approach in that it doesn’t focus much on characters. Most of the details and focus are given to the technical aspects of the heist. The intricate and difficult heist takes place during the second and third half. There’s much ado about how the heist is going to take place and how a crisis will be averted. And that leads to a lot of exposition. The characters would explain the details at length and frequently. And when the characters are not talking about something related to the heist, they don’t have much to say at all. The decision to focus mostly on the technicalities instead of the characters might alienate some viewers. However, some viewers will find it preferable because of the no-nonsense approach.
The no-nonsense approach also makes for a fun and intense experience since it places you into the action more directly. Discounting the characters for the heist details can add to the time you’d need to know more about the heist plan. Walter’s team goes and executes the task that needs to be done. They carry out more physical tasks such as distracting and duping the security guards. But taking this approach also runs the risk of reducing any emotional investment into the film. Characters are integral to a film. They need to be properly fleshed out and developed if you want viewers to root for them. They are not only important to emphasize high stakes but to also feel them. Then there’s also a requirement of a charming personality that can carry and make an otherwise mundane heist film.
Borrowed and Unoriginal Characters
There are charismatic characters in Thom and Walter but it doesn’t quite do it for me. There are a lot of twists and turns to boot on her too. But those also don’t inspire any significant emotion out of me. The film is also very derivative of other great heist movies. But unlike those movies, this one kind of borrows and takes inspiration for the most part. And even though it’s better than many of the Oceans Eleven ripoffs of recent times, it still falls flat. There’s not much originally or spark that can elevate the film from a bland and dull experience to a great one. The action set pieces also don’t do anything special in terms of visuals. The character motives, plans, and characters themselves feel like discount versions of the characters from great heist films.
It all feels very unoriginal and uninspired. There could have been more originality when it came to the characters. There’s a generic hotheaded guy who’s the muscles for the mission. Then there’s a charismatic leader that recruits the team. There’s a snappy and cocky computer hacker, a jaded pick-pocket, and an ostentatious “acquisition” expert. These are all characters borrowed straight from other heist movies. The difference being, they are interested in the movies it takes inspiration from. There are some parallels with Oceans Eleven but The Vault fails to copy or emulate similar charisma or appeal.
The Vault is an uninspired but appreciable effort at making a heist film. It borrows from some of the great films of the genre. But it fails to be original and interesting while doing so. All in all, it’s not a bad watch and you can go into it without worrying much. I rate The Vault as 2.5 out of 5.