A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Don't Breathe is an intense, gripping thriller set almost entirely in one house as a group of desperate thieves tries to steal a fortune from an elderly blind man. Frequent violence includes borderline torture and abuse. Women are held hostage and tormented; one is artificially inseminated against her will, and an attempt is made to inseminate the other. Guns are fired many times, with characters either wounded or killed. Blood splatters are shown. There's also fighting, punching, pummeling, and beating with blunt objects. Characters fall from heights and are injured. There's a reference to oral sex (using mouth, hands, and tongue to mime the action) and some partial undressing. Language is strong, with many uses of "f--k" and "bitch." Characters smoke a lot, and one character appears drunk (and is made to look bad as a result).
What's the story?
In DON'T BREATHE, three down-and-out, desperate Detroit dwellers -- social outcast "Money" (Daniel Zovatto), his girlfriend, Rocky (Jane Levy); and clean-cut, worrying Alex (Dylan Minnette) -- have a scheme. They rob houses using keys and codes stolen from Alex's father's job at a security company. When they learn about an elderly, blind war veteran (Stephen Lang) who keeps several hundred thousand dollars in his house, they figure it can be their "one last final score." Rocky wants to get her young daughter out of town and away from her abusive mother, while Alex has unrequited feelings for Rocky and wants to join her. Unfortunately, their "simple" plan turns nasty when the old man turns out to be more than a meek victim.
Is it any good?
The first three-quarters of this simple, intense thriller are something close to masterful -- and then it goes a little too over the top, with an outlandish reveal and elements of torture and gore. Director Fede Alvarez (the 2013 Evil Dead remake), starts Don't Breathe with nary a misstep, using the desolate Detroit locations to strong effect and establishing the space of the veteran's house clearly and concisely, never resorting to shaky-cam.
Plus, the crisp sound design highlights every creak and crack of the house, without an overuse of music. Character development is slight, but at least Rocky is sympathetic, with abuse in her past and a desire to protect her daughter. And for a long time, all of this is brilliantly sustained, suggesting a trust in the audience -- but then the movie betrays that trust by unleashing a ridiculous back story for the victim, as well as unnecessarily heightened violence. A bit more thought could have made this a suspense classic, but at least it's nearly there.
Talk to your kids about ...
How much did you care about the main characters, given that they're thieves and robbers? Does the movie generate sympathy for them? How?
What are the relationships like between the main characters and their parents (Rocky and her mother, and Alex and his father)? How are these relationships reflected in the characters' behavior?
How does smoking affect the characters? Does it make them seem cool? Dangerous? Desperate?
- In theaters: August 26, 2016
- On DVD or streaming: November 29, 2016
- Cast: Jane Levy, Dylan Minnette, Stephen Lang
- Director: Fede Alvarez
- Studios: Sony Pictures Releasing, Screen Gems
- Genre: Thriller
- Run time: 88 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: terror, violence, disturbing content, and language including sexual references
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.