The Vault is a curious beast, borrowing heavily from previous heist films and while entertaining in stretches, struggles to forge an identity of its own. The film follows a ragtag crew of treasure hunters and thieves who have discovered that part of Sir Francis Drake’s treasure lies beneath the Bank Of Spain in one of the world’s most fortified and heavily guarded vaults. The premise, while fun, does borrow more than slightly from Naughty Dog’s Uncharted Video Game series which featured Drake’s treasures prominently in its first game.
Our main protagonist is Freddie Highmore’s Thom Laybrick, a Cambridge graduate seemingly destined for a career in Big Oil. Much to the chagrin of his father, he is set firmly against the idea and is recruited to Walter’s (Liam Cunningham) crew due to his innovative engineering ideas. Thom and Walter are far and away the most developed characters of the core cast, with Thom’s disdain with his predestined path and the sense of fun he gets from his new lifestyle a key part of the early story. Likewise Walter’s desire to recover Drake’s fortune and desire to make a success of his lifestyle is another key facet of the film’s narrative.
As a result of the more prominent focus on Thom and Walter, the characterisation of the rest of the team is almost non-existent, with Sam Riley’s James suffering in particular. While he does show his disdain for Thom from the offset, his subsequent motivations and actions do almost come out of nowhere and so he is hard to care much for. Likewise Àstrid Bergès-Frisbey is clearly intended as a love interest for Thom, but we know so little of her background and the pair don’t have brilliant chemistry, so it is hard to buy overly into this aspect of the film. We also have a small series of cameos from Famke Janssen as a mysterious member of the British Government and this aspect feels quite tagged on and out of place, not giving Janssen nearly enough to do for an actor of her calibre.
The Madrid setting offers one of the film’s biggest strengths, coupled with being set during the 2010 FIFA World Cup. This clearly evokes the mood in the city at that period in time as Spain won the World Cup. The backdrop of World Cup matches to stage a daring heist is reminiscent of the iconic 60s caper The Italian Job, which of course used a football match as part of the distraction to help the crew get away with the gold bullion. The scale of the crowds in Madrid and sense of celebration across the city really shines through and the attention to detail in this regard is excellent.
Where the film excels is in the set-pieces, which do feel genuinely exciting in patches, as a series of elaborate methods are used to get into the vault. These echo the Mission Impossible series and Oceans films in places, we are even treated to some joking references to the Oceans films. The set pieces show director Jaume Balagueró (who was behind the REC series) has an aptitude for staging action set-pieces. It is perhaps frustrating that more attention isn’t given to the actual heist itself, as the planning takes up much of the run-time and as such the film can wander and may lose some audience interest.
While certainly not a game changing film within the heist genre, The Vault is an interesting film that puts style over substance with some intriguing set-pieces and makes the most of its 2010 World Cup and Madrid setting. Its pacing and lack of depth with its characters prevents this from becoming a great film and this is its biggest drawback. Liam Cunningham commits well to his role and its good to see a leading role from him away from Game Of Thrones, likewise Freddie Highmore makes the most of his chance to have a leading role as an adult, having made his name as a child actor.
In Select Theaters, on Digital and On Demand March 26, 2021