Wednesday, 8 September 2021

Don't Breathe 2

A Breath
Of Redemption

Don't Breathe 2
USA/Serbia 2021
Directed by Rodo Sayagues
Sony Pictures

Warning: Slight spoilers about the structure
of the story and a few minor reveals.

Well this is a bit of a surprise. Contrary to my expectations, I quite liked the fraught, tension filled movie Don’t Breathe (reviewed here) a few years ago but didn’t think much of any of the main protagonists, nor the villanous antagonist of the Blind Man (played so well by Stephen Lang). However, the morality of the characters aside, I had a very intense time at the cinema with it but didn’t see that it was worth going down the sequel route, even though the ending to the last one was deliberately left loose for a sequel thread to be pulled if necessary.

Then I saw the trailer for Don’t Breathe 2 and I absolutely bought in on the idea. The writers and director of the original film have really tried to take things in a different direction here. I mean, sure the theme of home invasion meets lethal force of resistance is still the main meat and vegetables of the film but, they’ve managed to turn the nasty, villanous Blind Man here into the main, almost heroic protagonist and have given him a real shot at redemption (of a sort).

The film starts off with a little girl surviving a fire. Eight years later she’s been ‘adopted’ by the Blind Man, who keeps her mostly safe and tries to teach her survival techniques. However, she attracts the attention of someone who may or may not have ties to her traumatic past and, as the audience is clued in from an early TV news broadcast, the intentions of these people probably don’t have her best interests at heart. So they storm the new home of the Blind Man to get her back... which is usually a big mistake, right?

Okay, so there’s a little bit of the 'same old same old' during the first half of the movie but, although the Blind Man is as lethal as those sent to both kill him and abduct the girl for their own nefarious purposes, he’s by no means invincible like, say, one of his nearest cinematic counterparts, Zatoichi (kind of)... he’s seen getting hurt a lot and he doesn’t always make the right decisions when it comes to a firefight nor, indeed, with his upbringing of the girl herself (played very nicely by Madelyn Grace).

The film is rendered in very desaturated colours (plus a lot of the old clichéd orange and teal lighting) but it all looks really good and there are some outstanding sequences and ideas which play well in the movie... such as another homage to the cracking glass scene in Spielberg’s The Lost World - Jurassic Park 2, this time over a blazing inferno of a greenhouse. Another nice thing is when an early character who is set up and immediately has the audience's sympathy, is killed off fairly quickly so you are sure the villains are pretty evil. Also, they kill a dog so, yeah, they’re bad! One amazing moment of thought out peril in the vein of the old ‘tying the lady to the railroad tracks’ school of filmmaking involves an electric wheelchair and a handcuffed girl, slowly rolling its way towards a precipice. It’s all good stuff and coupled with Roque Banos’ wonderful score (sadly not on CD so far), it all works really well.

One of the nice things about the film is, although the nature of the last act plays out in a similar fashion to the first... it’s still people bashing each other up in an enclosed, dark area but in a much larger space... it’s different from both the first movie and the first part of this one in that, it’s no longer set on the Blind Man’s home turf. His homebase, so to speak, is destroyed by fire as both he and an obvious way to track the bad guys are left for dead in the fiery aftermath of the their swathe of destruction. So, in the last third of the movie, he tracks them by... well, it’s another cliché but a welcome one... and brings the fight home to them in their own space. Coming in like some kind of blind, savage deux ex machina just as the girl is about to fall foul of the criminal’s, almost but really not quite, sympathetic intentions.

The film does, indeed, bring some self realisation and redemption in terms of the Blind Man. They don’t pull the rug again like in the previous film... but his fate is, well it may or may not be certain. This one is all about the final freeing of the girl to go on to lead a life that she can make for herself but... there might be room for more. All I’m saying on that is, if you stay in your seat once the first part of the end credits play out, you will be treated to a predictable but nonetheless welcome little sequence which is deliberately ambiguous but, obviously only ambiguous in so much as if this one makes a tonne of money, you could see room for a possible sequel. 

So that’s my final word on Don’t Breathe 2. A taut little action piece with an unlikely pair of protagonists and a similarly ‘shades of grey’ set of antagonists. If you liked the first movie then this is a nice follow up and a good effort at doing the constant sequel juggling act of staying the same but also doing something different.

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