The Vault Synopsis: When an engineer (Freddie Highmore) learns of a mysterious, impenetrable fortress hidden under The Bank of Spain, he joins a crew of master thieves who plan to steal the legendary lost treasure locked inside while the whole country is distracted by Spain’s World Cup Final. With thousands of soccer fans cheering in the streets, and security forces closing in, the crew has just minutes to pull off the score of a lifetime.
He may not be a household name domestically, but Spanish writer/director Jaume Balagueró has achieved a significant level of influence during his career. Balagueró cleverly revived the found footage genre with Rec in 2007, a cult favorite that became a central influence for a new generation of spooky titles. After strong initial success, Balagueró has struggled to recapture that lightning in a bottle.
A few poorly received offerings (you probably haven’t heard of Muse and Inside, and for good reason) have left the director searching for a sense of identity outside his horror sphere. Balagueró’s latest, a heist rift on the 2010 World Cup entitled The Vault, at least marks a step in the right direction. That being said, this competent, yet rarely compelling offering never stretches past familiar conventions.
Heist films elicit a restless sense of unease when operating at their apex, whether that be through the meticulous behind-the-scenes planning or the perilous mission itself. Balagueró does a serviceable job at capturing the genre’s dashing sense of adventure. He keeps a firm grasp on pace while implementing a sly mixture of edits and stylistic frames. I also admire how straightforward The Vault is. Balagueró and his writers know exactly the kind of taunt yarn they want to create, keeping their focus more on genre entertainment over any revelatory developments.
While that can work in theory, The Vault’s vanilla execution never engrossed me. Balagueró is restricted to “director-for-hire” tendencies aside from a few vibrant flourishes. It’s a letdown for his lively visual identity to settle despite working in a genre defined by its auteur filmmakers (from Michael Mann’s Heat to Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction, great voices have always reinvigorated heist movie tendencies). The film is consistently capable, but it never builds enough momentum to keep audiences invested during the patient build-up.
I can get down with a no-nonsense heist story. That being said, I wish the writers imbued the rudimentary screenplay with a semblance of identity. The thriller elements miss on swagger and charisma, lacking the kind of bold energy to keep audiences attuned. When the script tries to develop attachment through its makeshift family, its sincerity lands closer to clumsy hokiness. Corny character dynamics and stale dialogue exchanges leave characters in a state of total disconnect. I wish the capable cast received more dimension to work with. Stars Freddie Highmore and Astrid Berges-Frisbey lack natural chemistry onscreen, while the assured supporting players have little to do with their relatively hollow roles.
The Vault lands in a so-so middle ground. Fans of heist adventures should find some passable entertainment here, but the general lack of personality and verve left me wanting more.
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