Director: Fede Alvarez
Verdict: Really, really, fucking good
Have you every watched a movie and actually been distracted by just how good it is? Like not on a Birdman, ‘oh that’s so good’ level, I mean on a ‘that’s a really clever artistic choice, well done you’ level. That’s the experience I had with Don’t Breathe. I won’t win Oscars, but it should.
Don’t Breathe is an exploitation thriller b movie where three low life theives try to rob a blind veteran of his life savings and things go south pretty fast, it doesn’t sound very engaging, or that you’d like the characters, but the movie pulls it off. It’s essentially the type of movie I’d watch with my Dad when my mum and my sister weren’t around, sleazy horror films like The Corridor, and Se7en, but done with such a clever eye for film making that it stands out from the crowd.
The key to Don’t Breathe is this; Danny Boyle said something of Trainspotting, a film I have abounding affection for, when he made it, that these characters may be junkies, but that’s not all they are, they’re funny, and complex and they have they’re own dimensions. There is an absolutely fabulous line in Trainspotting that has always captured this for me, it’s when Renton says of his mother, “she was, in her own, socially acceptable way, also a drug addict”. In Don’t Breathe, our characters are low life thieves, but that’s not all they are, they have dimensions and hopes and dreams and motivations that makes you care for them, and without that, all the stylish film making in the world couldn’t help you.
The film does have style, and a lot of it. It’s directed by Fede Alverez, best known for the remake Evil Dead, and he’s set up to tackle the next English language ‘Tattoo’ film, The Girl in the Spider’s Web, and taking over film David Fincher’s, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is no stylistic mean feat. In this film Alverez uses style how it should be used, for really economical story telling. There is one long take that puts one in mind of David Fincher’s Panic Room, a very underrated film, that like that Panic Room long take builds tention, whilst simulatenously setting up things that will pay off later. So it will show you object X and then later a set peice will take place around object X and you’ll go OMG NO THAT’S GONNA HAPPEN! But the film still finds ways to subvert your expectations; it’s really great. Because of the nature of the film, there’s a lot of silence so visual communication is a must and it does that really well, a lot of other stuff is done in the soundtrack. Now the film I think has Oscar worthy sound design and sound mixing, (to a layman there’s little difference so just, the sound is really well done), and it’s not just a There Will Be Blood thing, which incedetally also has great sound design in other areas, where “look, he’d deaf or they’re being quiet so we’re going to cut the sound!!!!” it’s done so that you can hear every little sound. I mean it won’t get Oscar nominated because it has a turkey baster full of human semen in it, but it should. I mean seriously there were moments in Don’t Breathe where I was like, ‘oh no, OH NO, oh fuck that’. In the same way The Neon Demon deserves oscars for score and cinematography but it has lesbian necrophilia and the academy is like 90% white men, then again maybe they’re perverted white men who knows…
Technicaly brilliance aside, what it leads to is a tense film full of some really gripping set peices, there’s one in a car, another with some night vision that’re some of the most gripping sequences I’ve seen in maybe any film of this year, in fact Don’t Breathe is definitely in the running for my favourite of the year, but I havn’t really been keeping track. It’s incredibly cineliterate, you can see references, as we’ve already said, to Panic Room, but at one point to Fight Club, and Fight Club references can often run you into trouble but this film does it right I think, and most obviously it references I think The Silence of the Lambs or maybe Sicario, depending which you prefer to call. It might be a bit riduclous at times, but it’s a compliment to the film that that didn’t bother me. I watched it pretty late at night, and it just left me feeling completely wired, it’s great, and actually at the end has some political bite.
For me, 5 stars, and I don’t really do star ratings so, y’know, it’s good innit.