Army Of Thieves Ending Explained: Love In The Time Of Zombies

As much as Zack Snyder's "Army of the Dead" presented itself as a cross between a heist movie and a zombie flick, it did a better job of delivering undead-related thrills than the pleasures of watching a group of law-breakers execute a careful plan. "Army of Thieves," a film that acts as a prequel to Snyder's action/horror mashup, goes to the opposite extreme, in part because it takes place in Europe at a point when the zombie outbreak depicted in "Army of the Dead" has only just begun far away in Nevada. Instead, the film centers on the quirky safecracker Sebastian Schlencht-Wöhnert (Matthias Schweighöfer) and explores not only what drives him but why he goes by "Ludwig Dieter" in Snyder's movie.

Directed by Schweighöfer, "Army of Thieves" finds Sebastian leading a dull life as a Potsdam bank teller when he's approached by Gwendoline Starr (Nathalie Emmanuel), an expert thief with a daring plan. Since the world's distracted by the zombies, Gwendoline sees this as the perfect chance to break into three elaborate safes designed by the legendary locksmith Hans Wagner (whom Sebastian knows all about). She quickly convinces Sebastian to join her crew, including getaway driver Rolph (Guz Khan), tech expert Korina Dominguez (Ruby O. Fee), and Gwendoline's sorta-not-really boyfriend "Brad Cage" (Stuart Martin). Together, they target the safes, which are located in Paris, Prague, and St. Moritz, with the Interpol agent Delacroix (Jonathan Cohen) — who's tangled with Gwendoline's team before — in hot pursuit.

The Ring Cycle

Wagner modeled and named his safes after composer Richard Wagner's Ring Cycle, a series of four musical dramas that revolve around a battle between gods, giants, and mortals for control of a magical ring (and yes, Sebastian compares it to "Lord of the Rings" at one point). While "Army of Thieves" doesn't follow the Ring Cycle's plot beat-for-beat, there is some clear overlap between their stories and themes about love, betrayal, and the conflict between those with power and those without — or, in the context of the movie, the ultra-wealthy man who controls the safes (more on him later) and Gwendoline's plucky band of criminals. Sebastian even foreshadows the film's various twists by explaining the Ring Cycle to Gwendoline while he's cracking the individual safes.

Paralleling the Ring Cycle, the Paris heist runs smoothly. However, the Prague job goes south after a jealous Brad, who's realized Sebastian and Gwendoline are falling in love, abandons Sebastian to evade the police on his own, causing the team to split up for the St. Moritz heist. As a result, their surefire plan fails, leaving everyone scrambling to make their getaway. Sebastian and Gwendoline nearly escape, too, having cracked the last safe and finally admitted their feelings to one another, only for Delacroix to find them, leading to an armed standoff. But, in a move recalling a sacrifice the Valkyrie Brünnhilde makes during the Ring Cycle, Gwendoline offers to come in quietly if Delacroix lets Sebastian go, which he does.

How the Ending Connects to Army of the Dead

The last scene in "Army of Thieves" features archive footage of "Army of the Dead" leads Scott Ward (Dave Bautista) and Maria Cruz (Ana de la Reguera) hiring Sebastian to break into the Götterdämmerung, which takes its name from the Ring Cycle's fourth sequence. Moreover, it's the long-missing fourth safe that Hans Wagner crafted before locking himself inside to reunite with his deceased wife and son in death, much like the Ring Cycle ends with Brünnhilde killing herself on the pyre of her lover Siegfried. Of course, the safe belongs to billionaire Bly Tanaka (Hiroyuki Sanada), who also owns the safes Sebastian and Gwendoline broke into, as established in "Army of Thieves."

Thanks to the "Army of the Dead" prequel, Sebastian's fascination with the Götterdämmerung takes on a whole new light. It's also clear his resolve to reunite with Gwendoline hasn't wavered since his escape from St. Moritz, what with the pair having made each other a promise to track down Wagner's fourth safe. Sebastian even named his locksmith shop after Gwendoline, signaling she's ever-present on his mind. As for why he's now "Ludwig Dieter"? It was the name of a superhero persona Sebastian created as a child, as he told Gwendoline at one point. In a display of her affection for him, Gwendoline used that name on a passport she gave to Sebastian, allowing him to flee Europe undetected despite being a wanted criminal.

What Comes After Army of Thieves

As with Brünnhilde and Siegfried, fate conspires to keep the lovers in "Army of Thieves" apart, with Sebastian sacrificing his life to save his newfound buddy Vanderohe (Omari Hardwick) during the climax to "Army of the Dead" ... or so it seemed. Snyder, who plans to direct a sequel to the latter film titled "Planet of the Dead," has indicated that Sebastian (or, rather, Ludwig) might not be dead after all:

"The real adventure would be to see what happened to him when that safe door closed. Did he get killed by Zeus or not? What happened? We don't see him die on camera, and there's still some time left. I won't tell you what happens in Army of the Dead 2 — aka Planet of the Dead — but let's just say that there's a chance Dieter survives."

Could there still be a happy ending in the cards for Sebastian and Gwendoline, unlike the lovers in the Ring Cycle? Whichever way the cards fall, audiences will have to wait until "Planet of the Dead" to get a definite answer.