“Ambulance” is certainly one of Michael Bay’s best films. Filled with action, where every sequence has a story weaved into it, the film is a treat to watch. Moreover, the emotional backdrop of the plot also provides the whole chase with a certain gravity which would otherwise have been without any motive (basically just a mere robbery).
Will Sharp (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) is a marine veteran who needs money for his wife’s operation. When everything else fails, he reaches out to his adoptive brother and thief, Danny Sharp (Jake Gyllenhaal). Danny offers him a lot more in return for a bank heist in which he has to play a role. Seeing no other way and in desperation, Will agrees. But the robbery goes awry, and Danny and Will lose all their partners in a gunfight with the cops. They end up shooting a cop as well, whom they shove into an “ambulance” and hijack along with its paramedic, Cam Thompson (Eiza González). What follows is a fierce pursuit with the cops behind them as they try to keep the cop alive while zooming through the streets of Los Angeles.
Will Sharp: The Family Guy
We find out that Will, a former decorated marine, is going through a financial crisis, and his wife needs experimental surgery for which they need money. But the insurance won’t pay for it, and so he reaches out to his brother Danny, a long-time thief. Their relationship extends beyond Will’s apparent hatred for Danny’s job, as well as their father, who was also a “legend” robber and a bona fide psychotic. But Danny loves Will too. However, Will, after having served in the Marines, seems to be in no way giving the nod to a bank heist that Danny has planned. But it’s Will’s desperation to save his family that compels him to say “yes” to the plan.
At times, we tend to wonder what kind of person Will really is. How desperate is he for money that he agrees to be a part of a bank heist? When he was questioned about his service and what he got in return (by Danny), he clearly stated that it gave him a purpose. So he is proud of what he has done. But then again, how can a person with such a past fall victim to a robbery? Here, we also need to keep in mind that he is Danny’s adoptive brother. So there is an emotional catch that might have made Will join Danny. This is established in the scenes where we see both the brothers having fun as kids. Again, before pointing a finger at Will’s character, we also need to remember that he has an ailing wife and a son at home. Having run out of options, and just how much he loves his wife, he is willing to do anything to get the money required. We cannot judge Will but only question him.
That Will is good at heart is made clear throughout the film. He gives his blood to the wounded cop. He assures Cam that he will get her home, and the way in which he speaks to his wife on the phone while driving the “ambulance” clearly shows the regret he has for doing what he is doing as well as the helplessness that has brought him into this situation. He knows his wife would be totally against what he is doing but at the end of it all, he is doing it for her. And yet, after all that he did, his actions are what led him to get shot by none other than Cam herself, even though he made a mistake. But his reward comes when the cop reveals to his seniors that it was Will who saved his life. However, we cannot help but think that he really saved the cop because he wanted to? Or did he do it because he knew that if the cop died, he would be shot as well, and there would be no one to look after his wife and child? No matter how much we deny it, this remains a possibility. However, it is up to us to look at Will in a good light. He is someone who did what he could to save the situation he was in. And what’s tragic is that he even shoots his brother to save the situation. But naturally, it doesn’t save him from the pain of losing his brother, whom he loved and who loved him equally.
Danny Sharp: The Thief
Danny has been a thief for 17 years. So it isn’t that tough for us to imagine that he has the ability to manipulate people and has a way with words. Danny continuously mentions how much he loves Will and will do anything to help him. This seems to be a way to woo Will to be a part of the plan because Danny knows that he is a good driver. Danny’s feelings for Will are real, and all that he has to do is make Will move past his sense of righteousness, which ultimately makes him lower his standards from being a marine to being a criminal. But Will’s arrival at Danny’s place just before they were about to launch the heist was just a coincidence. So it is probably that Danny already had a driver and decided to use Will instead because he was better at it. “Is this the guy?” means that Danny’s crew member, named Mel Gibson, mistook Will for the new driver, who was probably also about to arrive at the same time. Or, it can also mean that Danny has already mentioned Will to his crew. And they had expected him to come, and recruiting Will was always a part of the plan. But this possibility seems a lot more unlikely because then Danny would have to be involved with Will’s family too. This isn’t the case since Will hasn’t even let Danny meet his family, probably once or twice at most.
There is another suggestion. He never had Danny beside him. Now, Danny was distanced from him, rightly so, because he had better things to do than help his brother rob banks. This included joining the army and having a family. So for Danny, Will’s arrival is his ultimate chance to get his brother back, and he will do everything for this. Now we do not know if his constant reminder of love for Will is to woo him so that everything goes according to what Danny wants, or if it is because he really does not want to lose Will again.
But due to his overhyped nature, Danny doesn’t think twice before doing things in desperate situations. He almost shoots Cam and doesn’t really feel for anyone else but himself and Will. Ultimately, it is Will who shoots him, and this is nothing but fate. His “original” brother, whom he loved all his life, is the one who ends it. The last thing he thinks about is how they used to play as kids and how Will would be the sheriff who would shoot him down. Perhaps life does bring brothers together in ways unthinkable.
Cam Thompson: The EMT
Cam deserves a special mention. Her ability to focus, even in the midst of all the chaos, is used to show her dedication to her job. The fact that she takes charge of the scenario inside the “ambulance” multiple times gives her power over the two main characters. However, that she undergoes a huge change throughout the film is also apparent. At the beginning of the film, she mentions how her job is just to “pick ’em up, drop ’em, forget ’em.” By the end of the film, her attitude towards her job has completely changed. She has saved not just one life (that of the cop), but that of Will and thus given a new life to his family. And she did all this almost literally at gunpoint. The film, in this way, does pay tribute to the EMTs and emergency services, which do all it takes to save lives, sometimes by putting their lives on the line too. By the end of the film, she has realized the importance of not letting go and a small bit of this lesson was given to her by Will, too, for whose family Cam leaves the money just as she had promised Will.
It’s not a walk-off to the distant sunset (as Will tells Danny) for any of these characters, but it sure is a sunset, for some, beautiful while, for others, an end.