Combustible Celluloid
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With: Freddie Highmore, Àstrid Bergès-Frisbey, Sam Riley, Liam Cunningham, Luis Tosar, Axel Stein, José Coronado, Famke Janssen, Emilio Gutiérrez Caba
Written by: Rowan Athale, Michel Gaztambide, Borja Glez. Santaolalla, Andres Koppel, Rafa Martínez
Directed by: Jaume Balagueró
MPAA Rating: R for language
Running Time: 118
Date: 03/26/2021

The Vault (2021)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Grail Safe

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

A spirited, fleet-footed heist tale, The Vault feels like a lower-rent version of a Mission: Impossible or Ocean's movie, but its intriguing puzzle and likable characters qualify it as a pleasant distraction.

Walter Moreland (Liam Cunningham) and his crew salvage a large collection of sunken treasure off the coast of Spain, but it is immediately absconded by the government. Within the treasures is a clue left by Sir Francis Drake, leading to even greater riches. So Walter and his crew of experts — which includes master-of-disguise Lorraine (Astrid Bergès-Frisbey) and diver James (Sam Riley) — decide to steal it, which requires breaking into the most secure vault in the world.

They must recruit an engineer, and young college student Thom Laybrick (Freddie Highmore) becomes the most likely candidate. Thom determines that the underground vault is actually a huge scale that, when tipped, causes a huge tank of water to empty into it. With the World Cup coming up as their means of distraction, Thom only has a few days to solve the puzzle.

Directed by Spanish-born Jaume Balagueró, known for his terrifying found-footage horror movie [Rec] (2007) and its sequels, The Vault feels like a refreshing departure. Balagueró keeps up roller-coaster suspense while keeping the tone breezy and light, and without resorting to much violence. The fact that the vault is based on hundred-year-old mechanics and must be solved with simple logic feels like a bracing change from similar, technology-driven stories (it also recalls the National Treasure movies). It's too bad that the World Cup framing device isn't used more cleverly.

The cast of The Vault is largely make up of "types," nevertheless keeps the patter snappy, and gives each character a certain kind of individuality. It includes Famke Janssen in a few scenes as a British intelligence officer whose sole job is to talk Walter out of his crazy scheme, but even she brings a little something to the proceedings.

A potential weak link is Highmore, best known as the child star of Finding Neverland, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Arthur and the Invisibles, etc., all grown up here. He doesn't seem to have much range, and often wears the same semi-blank expression. Nevertheless, he still has a likable quality, and his casting is easy to overlook in favor of the rest of the movie's fun.

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