director Fede Alvarez
viewed: 09/24/2016 at AMC Metreon 16, SF, CA
Set in a derelict Detroit, Fede Alvarez’s Don’t Breathe is a home invasion gone wrong thriller. A trio of three very clean and good-looking young people, Jane Levy, Dylan Minnette, and Daniel Zovatto, are breaking into the homes of families unlucky enough to have ensured their security to Minnette’s father’s security company. They want to make enough to skip out on Michigan and head to California, in particular Jane Levy, who is shown briefly at her trailer park home with her unkind mother.
Don’t Breathe is a relatively simple set-up. Three young criminals break into a house in an abandoned neighborhood where a blind ex-Gulf War dude lives with his cash settlement from his daughter’s death. Only, of course, this guy is a bad-ass and the kids are in deep doo-doo.
The cinematography is a real high point, with the camera omnisciently roving the scenes, highlighting elements due to come back into play, directing the viewer’s viewpoint.
But the story strains at its simple set-up. Most of the film is the thieves trying to escape the confined spaces of the locked-down house. Some sequences are stronger than others, like the near pitch darkness that befalls one basement chase. But others push up against logic, like when trapped in an upstairs room with only bar-covered windows, Minnette gets pushed through a window I guess they hadn’t considered by the raving dog.
It’s the little things that niggled at me, and my kids who saw it with me. The backstory on the robbers is brief but not convincing. This Detroit seems almost devoid of black people. A scene where one character seems to be stabbed with pruning shears turns out to be a dodge when those shears turn out to have pierced a corpse instead.
In a movie with a concise premise, even when the action is moving well, these odd moments of logic can break the tension. At least for me, anyways. Not nearly as strong a film as I had read.