Sunday, August 28, 2016

Don't Breathe - Movie Review

Starring Jane Levy, Dylan Minnette, Stephen Lang and Daniel Zovatto.
Written by Fede Alvarez & Rodo Sayagues.
Directed by Fede Alvarez.


I love the way this movie is set up. We get about fifteen minutes to establish the lives and personalities of the three Detroit burglars. There's Rocky, played by Evil Dead's Jane Levy, who wants to save up enough money to move with her daughter to California. There's her boyfriend Money, played by It Follows' Daniel Zovatto, who wants to go with her but also just loves robbing and breaking stuff. And there's Alex, played by Goosebumps' Dylan Minnette, who has a crush on Rocky.

When they first break into the blind man's house, the camera swoops and swerves all over the layout, pausing on certain spots like "This will be important!" Hm, that's the room where his tools are, and I see a big hammer in the middle. That will come up later. I see the Blind Man (Avatar's Stephen Lang) has a gun strapped under his bed. No way that's staying there the whole movie.

Money releases some kind of sleeping gas in the Blind Man's room so they can move freely through the rest of his house to find where he keeps his cash. They have a lead that he has upwards of $300,000 stashed somewhere. It's a good final score so that this can be the last house they rob.

Ah, but the Blind Man wakes up and gets out of his bedroom before the gas can knock him out. So while the burglars are quiet and try to avoid him, he knows someone's there and he locks his house down like a fortress until he can find them.

The title captures perfectly what this movie is. The tension builds in excruciating fashion as the characters hold their breath and keep still, trying to not to signal to the Blind Man, who naturally has very good hearing, where they might be.

It has twists and turns. (You know there's something in that basement!) It has a couple contrivance problems. (Why would a loner blind man have working lightbulbs in all of his lamps?) It's really a showcase for two of its actors.

Jane Levy, who charmed in Suburgatory, is the sympathetic Final Girl here, and she showed that she should be getting some of the same offers Emma Stone is getting. Stephen Lang, who once upon a time was known for playing schlubs in movies like Manhunter, has really found second life as a buff, angry character actor, but his Blind Man here is no ordinary psycho. His backstory manages to draw some sympathy, even if many of his choices on this day and those leading up to it don't.

It's worth it in the theaters, to be surrounded by fellow movie-goers who are also holding their breath.

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