The plotline of criminals versus a blind person is nothing new at the movies (see the classic Wait Until Dark – 1967), where, typically, the sightless character is the victim that you sympathize with and that you hope will somehow manage to survive the encounter. With Don’t Breathe writer/director Fede Alvarez turns that whole concept on its head and delivers a film that is basted with intensity and originality.
Rocky (Jane Levy), Alex (Dylan Minnette) and Money (Daniel Zovatto) are three hooligans from the mean streets of dilapidated Detroit, Michigan. They spend their time robbing well-to-do homes, utilizing insider information from Alex’s Dad’s home security business. Rocky hopes to one day come up with enough money to move her and her sister to California. Alex is in the scheme way over his head and Money is just a jerk.
The trio decides to make one last heist that will get them enough money to stop their nefarious thieving ways. They case a house in the poor section of town where a blind man lives alone and is sitting on a fortune he acquired from a settlement when his daughter was killed in a traffic accident. The rub is that the blind man (Stephen Lang) is a US Army Special Forces veteran and, well, you do the math.
Alvarez and his co-writer, Rodo Sayagues, had me feeling sympathy for the blind man, then sympathy for none of the characters (well, except the dog), then just praying I would not fall off the edge of my seat and embarrass myself in the middle of the theater. Oh and then there is that one scene that you will never be able to un-see.
You’ll likely catch yourself holding your breath while watching this film, and for me Don’t Breathe tapped into those unsettling moments, as a kid, when playing Blind Man’s Bluff or Hide & Seek, when you are trying desperately to not make any noise. (And there is one DB sequence set in the dark that took me back to a bigfoot story that used to be told around the campfire… but maybe you had to be there for that one. Anyone?)
Stephen Lang does an excellent job as the very capable blind man, and the other stand out performance is by Dylan Minnette, who is perfectly cast for his ability to portray wide-eyed incredulity. Levy is also good in the lead role as Rocky, and she’s on her way to becoming the ‘Scream Queen’ of the millennial generation.
With its amazing cinematography by Pedro Luque, Don’t Breathe is the movie you’ll be talking about next Monday morning (and it will be a NSFW conversation.) Don’t let anyone tell you too much about it beforehand. Grade: 8/10
Photos © 2016 Sony Pictures Entertainment Inc.