(Content warning: discussions of ableism, violence, rape)
I was really anticipating "Don’t Breathe." I am a fan of thrillers, and I had heard that this one was really exciting. Unfortunately, I came out of the movie a little disappointed "#Don't Breathe" starts as a tense and enjoyable thriller, but loses its charm by the end.
"Don’t Breathe" is about three teenagers, Roxy (Jane Levy), Alex (Dylan Minnette), and Money (Daniel Zovatto), who rob houses by overriding the alarms Alex’s father has installed in them. When the group hears about a lone blind man (Stephen Lang) who has over $300,000 in his house, the teens think it’ll be an easy job. Unfortunately for them, the man turns out to be more than they bargained for, and robbery becomes a terrifying trial to get out of the house before they’re killed.
Going into the movie, I was excited, but a little apprehensive. Stories tend to use physical disability as a signal for monstrousness -- think of Darth Vader, for instance -- and it’s hard not to feel a little uneasy with a #Film concept of “blind man kills teenagers”. That fear held pretty true for this film -- there are a few too many scenes where the teens freeze in place, as if they’re trying to fool the t-rex from "Jurassic Park," and it’s hard not to be made a bit uncomfortable.
There is, at least, a moral ambiguity throughout most of the film that muddles the blind man’s role as the movie’s villain. After all, the teens are home invaders, and the man does have sympathetic backstory, so for most of the film, it’s not too hard to think of him as the hero trying to keep these damn kids from stealing his stuff. The way our protagonists hide is in fear of a blind man is still pretty gross, but for a good portion of the movie, at least you could argue they are the bad guys for doing so.
For a good two-thirds of the movie, then, it works. The scenes are tense, with the teens sneaking around the blind man, trying their best not to be heard. The pacing is good, and the characters are sketched just enough to give you people to root for. If the story had stayed in this area of just tight pacing and tense moments until the end, it might have been a small classic of the thriller genre.
Unfortunately, the story just can’t leave well enough alone. The first problem comes in the form of too many false endings. The movie just doesn’t know when to quit; the end has so many sudden and unnecessary reveals that do nothing more than pad the film. There were so many, that by the finale, I was just exhausted.
Worse, the movie goes beyond destroying its moral ambiguity for the sake of tacky shock value. Without spoiling too much, one of the several unnecessary endings introduces rape into the story, and the blind man is solidified as the story’s monster. Removing the moral ambiguity was bad enough, but adding rape into the storyline was the clincher. That part was so unnecessary! It just makes the story even more uncomfortable than it already was, and made me leave the theater with a bad taste in my mouth.
Leaving "Don’t Breathe," I couldn’t help feeling frustrated. This movie was so close to being great! It had nice set-up, and kept the tension high right until the end. Unfortunately, the film pushes too far, and ends up suffering for it. #MovieReview