For Reel

Don’t Breathe (2016)
September 4, 2016, 6:29 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Fede Alvarez
3.5 Stars
Don't BreatheAfter three thieves have broken into the home of the blind Gulf War veteran who will be their tormentor, the camera calmly tracks through the environment, taking a brief pause on key props—a mallet, locks, barred windows—to both establish the setting and foreshadow what is to come. It is a neatly efficient sequence that serves an apt metaphor for director Fede Alvarez’s thriller—it accomplishes its suspense with a cool sense of economy, where what essentially plays as a deadly game of marco polo promises unyielding thrills. Stephen Lang embodies the gruff physicality of the monster quite well, with his menace offset by a subtle bit of weariness. On the few occasions that he speaks, it sounds like an ordeal to push the words out—he is haunted and practical, far from the sort of villain who sadistically taunts his prey. Alvarez uses the limited setting to its full potential, imagining not only every nook and cranny of the home but just which floorboard might produce a creak. If some of the grislier twists are unnecessary (the film’s hero/villain dichotomy is complicated until it isn’t), it largely stays within its means and finds its scares in creative ways. In a Hollywood season that values scale above all else, Don’t Breathe is a reinvigorating reminder that less is almost always more.

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