Don't Breathe 2 Movie Review: A decent thriller that struggles to deal with the sequel pressure
A decent thriller that struggles to deal with the sequel pressure
The issue with sequels is the pressure of having to rise beyond the original film. The problem with Don't Breathe 2, an intriguing thriller by itself, is that it simply cannot match the edge-of-the-seat ride that was the 2016 film.
Just like in the first film, Don't Breathe 2 is also a home-invasion film, and the similarities, unfortunately, stop there. Instead of a locker full of cash, this time, the intruders are invading the house of Norman Nordstrom (Stephen Lang), a blind military veteran, for his 11-year-old Phoenix (Madelyn Grace). It reminded me of The Da Vinci Code which said that the holy grail is not a cup but a woman. Interestingly, just like how that film's Jacques Saunière trains his granddaughter Sophie Neveu for challenges, Norman too, along with his trusty Rottweiler, Shadow, train Phoenix to tackle any situation. Like in Don't Breathe, where we initially worry about Norman only for those feelings to endure a paradigm shift when you know who the actual victims are, this sequel too is more than meets the eye.
Cast: Stephen Lang, Madelyn Grace, Brendan Sexton III, Fiona O'Shaughnessy
Director: Rodo Sayagues
In an early scene, when the invaders come in with all guns blazing, the single-shot sequence in which Phoenix uses her house as a weapon to save herself--like father, like daughter--is probably the best part of this sequel. It's a downward slope from there, and the rest of the film, surprisingly, takes the emotional route and relies more on twists than the nail-biting action that the first film is famous for. Speaking about action, both films are great examples of how to shoot violence and gore inventively. A person's nose and mouth is closed with superglue, eyes are gouged out... you get the gist. While they work in favour of this genre, it doesn't make up for the 'where is Norman going to attack from now' idea that made the first film so unexpectedly exciting.
This film is more emotional than the first, which didn't have time to indulge in this luxury. Though I would have liked to see more depth in the Norman-Phoenix relationship, debutant director Rodo Sayagues, who co-wrote Don't Breathe, brings in a lovely twist to make up for that.
Stephen Lang and Madelyn Grace shoulder this thriller by understanding the limitations of their characters and delivering mature performances. Lang looks as physically ripped as he was in the first film, and at 69, he is an example of the saying, 'Age is just a number'. Grace does a splendid job, despite her character being a damsel in distress, which is rather in contrast to what you learn of her initially.
While Don't Breathe worked as a claustrophobic thriller, this sequel takes the protagonist into unfamiliar territories. As someone who is visually challenged, his understanding of his own house and using it against the invaders, was the most intriguing part of the first film. Here, the fact that he is forced to venture out of his comfort zone is an exciting idea. The film is smart in focussing on the story around Phoenix instead of on Norman who, from the first film, has been established as a kidnapper, murderer and rapist. In the sequel's final minutes, which seems to be straight from Logan, he even does a callback to his way of life and calls himself a monster.
On the whole, the sequel might have worked better, had it not been part of a franchise. But that's not to say it's a very decent thriller.