Don’t Breathe (2016): A Chamber Thriller wrought out of nothing by Fede Alvarez

A Potpourri of Vestiges Review

By Anirban Lahiri

Featured in IMDb Critic Reviews

Don't Breathe, Movie Poster, Directed By Fed Alvarez
Don't Breathe (2016) By Fede Alvarez

In the last twenty years, with the slow encroachment of the viewing space by the TV screen, always increasing in width, thriller replaced the romantic as the ubiquitous genre. Today, in the youth of globalization, thriller with its characteristic elements - accelerated pace (i.e., continually decreasing shot-duration in the same scene), Close Ups quickly stitched to Long and Extreme Long Shots, action jerks, discontinuity and war drum-beat rhythm - have become so important that a film’s success is defined by that. Fede Alvarez’s chamber thriller successfully uses these tropes to carve out a tight, and unpredictable, high-strung midnight drama, enacted by four people and a dog (well, one dies in the first thirty minutes of the film, and replaced by a muted, kidnapped girl who also dies within ten minutes of her introduction in to the film. So, practically it is a film played out by three major characters, two absent or dead souls, and a dog), in a cloistered bungalow on the suburb.

Our Rating: 7.5
IMDb Ratings: 7.8
Genre: Horror | Thriller
CastStephen Lang, Jane Levy, Dylan Minnette
Country: USA
Language: English
Runtime: 88 min
Color: Color

A Still from Don't Breathe
A Still from Don't Breathe
Rocky, Alex and Money are three thieves who break in homes for petty sums. When they find out a rich, blind, army veteran staying in the suburb alone, in a secluded bungalow, they decide to barge in, at night. Little do these amateur burglars know how an experienced US Army officer functions, despite his blindness. Money (played by Daniel Zovatto) is killed quickly. The film practically begins at his death in the hands of the blind man. What happens after that puts us in a roller coaster drive for the next fifty minutes of the film.

The blind man has a dog. A fierce, protector, one. It is always amazing to see other animals playing sharply besides their human masters, in films. The dog, the overall architecture of scenes with its magical sheen of alternate orange and blue light zones, the claustrophobic violence that keeps us taut in the seats, almost no background music to spoil the mood – these adrenaline elements build the structure of fear and unpredictability with the first death in the house.
A Still from Don't Breathe
A Still from Don't Breathe
Special credit goes to the Cinematographer Pedro Luque Briozzo , from the State Film School, Uruguay. The typical Latin American mood enhancers that we have seen in the films shot by Lubezki, Navarro, Prieto or Miranda – saturated colors, play of the opposites, classical composition plans enhanced, separation of fore, middle and background like a visual engineer, precisely, with geometry, tones and colors – are vividly present in Luque’s work too. Cinematography, editing and sound design build up the characters caught between four walls, without much past history shown, or needed.

As student of Cognitive Psychology, I have some knowledge about how blind men perceive reality. Although there are subtle, and sometimes gross, differences among blind men in interacting with the world out there (and the differences are more pronounced between the congenital blind and blind at mature age), there are logical similarities. If vision is absent, other senses go on hyper-drive. I have seen blind persons moving with unbelievable agility, in all types of spaces. Fed Alvarez meticulously used this fact to etch out enhanced reality out of a fantasy space. The story unrolls at night, under dim light, and sometimes in total darkness. The blind man, brought to life by the refined movements of Stephen Lang, makes it unpredictable. We fail to guess who will win.
A Still from Don't Breathe
A Still from Don't Breathe
The actors were all in controlled role play. The credit for that goes to the Director and the Cinematographer. Without doubt, this is a Director’s film. There was not much left for the actors to improvise.

This film is an interesting case-study of how a high-pitched thriller may be made within a single location, in a continuous stretch of time. Important for both cinephiles and filmmakers, Don’t Breathe is ready to set fire to the screen.

Go and catch it in the cinemas!
A Still from Don't Breathe
A Still from Don't Breathe
Readers, please feel free to share your views/opinions in the comment box below. As always your feedback is highly appreciated!


Don't Breathe (2016) Trailer (YouTube)

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