Rocky, a young woman wanting to start a better life for her and her sister, agrees to take part in the robbery of a house owned by a wealthy blind man with her boyfriend Money and their friend Alex. But when the blind man turns out to be a more ruthless adversary than he seems, the group must find a way to escape his home before they become his latest victims.
Fede Alvarez just gave Green Room a run for its money with Don't Breathe, an incredibly intense film and glorious exercise in suspense. It's one of the best studio-produced thrillers I've seen in years. The premise is simple: A group of teens plans to break into a blind man's house to steal his money. Only thing, the old man is more adept than they realize. While the setup is a little too pedestrian, albeit economical, once the story gets rolling, the film doesn't let up, running at a lean 88 minutes. Other than that, Don't Breathe is best viewed going in knowing as little as possible.
This is Alvarez's first film in three years since his violent and solid remake of Evil Dead, and it is with this sophomoric debut that solidifies the genre filmmaker as someone with obvious talent. Inspirations are drawn from the best - Hitchcock, Fincher, and Wait Until Dark are a few - but Alvarez provides his own unique vision that truly makes the film his own. Like the masters before him, Don't Breathe is purely cinematic, relying less on dialogue and more on visual storytelling and sound to drive the film. The cinematography is amazing as well as the creative sound design, so much so they are characters within the film themselves.
The cast, while small, is great too, including Jane Levy, who can pretty much be titled this generation's scream queen after this and Evil Dead. Dylan Minnette is good in his role as well, providing enough sympathy for his character. Both young actors are put through hell, and their physical performances sell their tumultuous ordeal convincingly. However, it is Stephen Lang who is the film's shining beacon. As the antagonist, Lang is instantly memorable and frightening, an intimidating force that permeates throughout the film even in scenes without his presence.
If there's one gripe about the film, there's a plot twist that doesn't quite work, but that itself is a minor complaint compared to the many things the film gets right and does so well. I won't say more. Don't Breathe is a technical achievement, the rare studio film that actually pushes what film can do as a medium. However, like with Green Room, try not to get caught up in the hype, even with my glowing review. Set your expectations appropriately, and remember to avoid watching the trailer.
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