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Review: Don’t Breathe 2 (2021)

Don’t Breathe 2 (2021)

Directed by: Rodo Sayagues

Premise: A sequel to the 2016 film. Blind military veteran Norman Nordstrom (Stephen Lang) has a daughter (Madelyn Grace) and they live a withdrawn life. A group of criminals invade their home intending to kidnap the girl.

What Works: Don’t Breathe 2 is a mostly successful remix of a concept. The sequel echoes the original scenario in which a blind man fended off a home invasion. The first movie toyed with the audience’s sympathies in some creative and effective ways. The sequel is much more straightforward but it does have a wicked twist about halfway through that escalates the tension. Don’t Breathe 2 commits to the home invasion concept and offers a much more elaborate scenario. As criminals break into the house, Norman Nordstrom and his daughter evade and combat the team of assailants in ways that are creative and expertly staged. The filmmakers choreograph the action effectively and the camerawork of Don’t Breathe 2 is exceptional. As in the original film, Don’t Breathe 2 benefits from the casting of Stephen Lang as Norman Nordstrom. Lang possesses a mix of vulnerability and violence; Norman Nordstrom is a tragic monster and the filmmakers make him a more sympathetic character in the sequel by emphasizing his relationships with dogs and children. It’s a shortcut to create empathy, and it might even be a copout, but it works. Also impressive is Madelyn Grace as the blind man’s adopted daughter. Grace is an effective pair with Lang and her performance is central to making the movie work.

What Doesn’t: Don’t Breathe 2 isn’t nearly as tight as the original film. That was a contained movie with nearly all the action taking place inside Norman Nordstrom’s home. The sequel starts off in much the same way but it never quite duplicates the intensity of its predecessor. In its final stretch the movie’s scope gets much bigger and Don’t Breathe 2 suffers for it. The story turns on several big coincidences and the novelty of the first film is lost. Norman Nordstrom was established in Don’t Breathe as a highly trained soldier who had lost his vision but adapted to his disability. It was a delicate balance that kept the character credible. In the sequel, Nordstrom has become superhuman, able to decipher and anticipate his adversaries and move about unfamiliar places as though he still has his vision. Don’t Breathe 2 intends to give Nordstrom a redemption arc but the filmmakers never quite succeed. His violence is consistent with who he always was. There’s little sense that he has changed his ways or his outlook on life. 

Bottom Line: Don’t Breathe 2 can’t recapture the surprise or effective simplicity of its predecessor but this is a good sequel. The follow up expands the home invasion thrills and Stephen Lang has created a unique and memorable character.

Episode: #865 (August 22, 2021)