Rocky (Jane Levy), Alex (Dylan Minnette), and Money (Daniel Zovatto) are three Detroit thieves who get their kicks by breaking into the houses of wealthy people. Money gets word about a blind veteran who won a major cash settlement following the death of his only child. Figuring he’s an easy target, the trio invades the man’s secluded home in an abandoned neighborhood. Finding themselves trapped inside, the young intruders must fight for their lives after making a shocking discovery about their supposedly helpless victim.
Fede Álvarez’s Don’t Breathe is easily one of the best and most fast-paced thrillers of the 2010s. I’ll never forget the first time I saw it in theatres opening night. The air in the theatre was cool and breezy. There was a good number of people surrounding me and as soon as the movie began, there essentially was not a sound that could be heard in the theatre besides the movie itself.
The same sort of thing happened in 2018 with John Krasinski’s A Quiet Place – both are films that utilize sound (or the lack thereof) in excellent and masterful ways. With Don’t Breathe, Álvarez makes even the smallest sound come across as absolutely horrifying and intense.
It utilizes an extremely simple concept that works so well thanks to an air-tight script, amazing performances, tension, and atmosphere. There truly is not a moment wasted with this movie. The movie begins and we learn rather quickly that a group of three friends are looking into robbing a house that belongs to a wealthy blind man. They have robbed people before and it was definitely a challenge for them, but they feel as though this house would be especially easy considering that the homeowner literally cannot see.
One of the members, Alex, isn’t too keen on the idea whatsoever and makes it clear to his friends that he doesn’t want to participate in the robbery. However, they inform him that there’s at least three-hundred-thousand dollars in the house, and that if they successfully pull off this heist, they won’t need to rob anybody ever again. They are robbing so they can support themselves and their families in particular.
So instead of forcing you to feel sympathy for all the friends, Don’t Breathe displays how far one will go to support their loved ones, and also shows how far is too far when it comes to defending your home. You absolutely don’t condone the actions of the thieves, but you don’t really condone the actions of Norman, the Blind Man, either.
From the moment this film kicks off to the moment it delivers its jaw-dropping and white-knuckling final few frames, it’s a relentlessly tense and vigorously entertaining thrill-ride. You feel like you are in the shoes of the robbers. Once the movie gets extremely quiet, so do you. You don’t want to make a sound either. The sound design is phenomenal.
But equally phenomenal are all the performances here, but especially from Stephen Lang and Jane Levy. Levy feels raw and enthralling in the role of Rocky, and delivers one of the most frenetic performances of her career as the character, but the real star here is Lang who is chilling from the instant we see him all the way to the finale. His presence feels cold and unwelcome. Whenever he is on screen, you get a shiver down your spine and once he shows how deadly he really is, that fear is further boosted.
It’s miraculous how such a short film can end up being so incredible. Does Don’t Breathe need a sequel? I’m not too sure. Yes, it’s definitely going to be interesting to see what happens next in this story, but I just hope they don’t tarnish elements of the original. Either way, I’m definitely curious to see the next chapter this year.
Overall Grade: A
MPAA Rating: R for terror, violence, disturbing content, and language including sexual references
Directed by: Fede Álvarez
Distributed by: Sony Pictures Releasing
Release Date: August 26, 2016
Running Time: 88 minutes