Monday, 12 September 2016

Review: Don't Breathe

Don't Breathe (SPOILERS (separate, underneath post))
Cert: 15 / 88 mins / Dir. Fede Alvarez / Trailer

First things first, this review features an introductory paragraph (this), a brief synopsis of the film's setup, a list of things I enjoyed then a list of things I didn't. In doing this, the review is structured classically but thoroughly predictably. Much like Don't Breathe itself...

The Plot: When a trio of amateur burglars in run-down Detroit get a tip that a local, blinded war veteran is holed up in his house with hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash, the gig seems to good to pass up. However, The Blind Man is harbouring more secrets than his money, and getting out of the house proves to be far more difficult than getting in...

The Good: Don't Breathe features some fantastic performances and thoroughly intriguing cinematography throughout. The camera almost floats around the house, casually showing us the things the protagonists don't see and the things the antagonist can't, and a pretty marvellous night-vision sequence in the house's cellar levels the playing field plunging everyone into darkness while the audience look on holding their breath, as if the film's title is an instruction for us as much as the would-be escapees...

The Bad: Unfortunately all this is let down by one-dimensional characters and a screenplay which segues unevenly between the woefully hackneyed and the gleefully perverse. And therein lies the beef. I'm willing to cut any film some slack if it at least makes sense internally, but as it stands this film is just too silly to be taken seriously*1. And if you're not taking the idea of three misguided kids being chased around a locked and fortified house by a traumatised war veteran with an array of weapons seriously, there's little point in being there.

Despite having a very real and credible threat at its core, there's far to much of the quiet-quiet-BANG going on for a film which shows so much promise in its technical areas. At one early point we're treated to a whistle-stop tour of the house which only serves to set the markers for upcoming callbacks, like the audience should pat themselves on the back for remembering a hammer...

The Ugly: And then the script has the audacity to reveal the film to be a moral battle about Atheists vs Burglars, somehow? This is proffered so cack-handedly (whilst similarly ignoring issues of grief, PTSD, mental illness and gun-control) that the wheels fall off completely and I was just willing anyone to die so that the film could end.

Although the score-point that the movie squarely loses for this assault on the audience's intelligence is almost (almost, but not) won back for the all-to-brief recreation of the famous Alien 3 shot. Blink and you'll miss that.

Don't Breathe is a fascinating exercise in film-making; not so much in storytelling...

So, watch this if you enjoyed?
To be honest, it's a bit like a cross between 2007's Disturbia and 1991's The People Under The Stairs
Even though I enjoyed both of those movies more than this.

Should you watch this in a cinema, though?
The tension will be higher in a cinema, I gladly admit.

Does the film achieve what it sets out to do?
For me? Evidently not…

Is this the best work of the cast or director?

Will I think less of you if we disagree about how good/bad this film is?

Yes, but is there a Wilhelm Scream in it?

Yes, but what's the Star Wars connection?
Level 2: This film's got that Stephen Lang in it, and he was in The Men Who Stare At Goats alongside Ewan 'Kenobi' McGregor...

And if I HAD to put a number on it…

*1 Things I couldn't get past; I've made a list...
(spoilers obviously, plus these will only make sense if you've seen the film anyway)

1) So a team of repeat-but-amateur burglars target houses whose security systems are managed by the same company and which are all within driving distance of the company-owner's house, and the police haven't pieced anything together by the time this film starts?

2) And the most brash of the three offenders, Money, routinely leaves DNA evidence at the scene of the crime, as if a kid like him's got no previous?

3) The main plot-strand seems to work on the basis that a blind war veteran won't hear a window being broken in his own house with all the internal doors open, or the alarm beeping for thirty seconds. Okay, we find out the TV's running while he sleeps, but still. More on this later.

4) After The Blind Man foils the first attempt on robbing his house and boards up the bathroom window that was the entry-route, why doesn't he then go and check/reset the alarm?

5) And this security-conscious Blind Man has all his windows securely barred except for those five massive, non-strengthened single-panes forming a conservatory roof over his ground-floor kitchen, yeah?

6) War veteran or not, with that many shots being fired, unsilenced, in confined spaces, there's no way any of the characters would be able to hear jack shit for most of the movie, let alone The Blind Man who can apparently detect a pin dropping while everybody else still has double-vision...

7) Now, he's either got a) superb hearing which has compensated for his sight-loss in the intervening years, or b) chronic tinnitus from years of active service spent in close proximity to firearms. Either way, how come the repeated gunfire in the aforementioned enclosed spaces causes him no apparent discomfort, but when the burglar alarm is finally triggered he's paralysed by the deafening ringing? I've heard a burglar alarm, and I've heard gunfire. I know which was more uncomfortable.

8) Had our antagonist's not-at-all-creepy plan worked, and not withstanding the explanation that he's going to have to give the authorities at some stage in the future, how the hell is The Blind Man going to raise a baby? No, seriously. He might be a psychopath, but he's a psychopath who apparently knows how to plan shit out, yet this never occurred to him..?

9) And if the police are a two-minute drive away to respond to that triggered alarm, how come there was no call the night before when around thirty shots were fired? I know he lives in a rough area, but really?

Apart from that it was fine, I guess.

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

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