Don’t Breathe (2016): Movie Review and Analysis

Don't Breathe - Stephen Lang as Norman.
Stephen Lang as Norman Nordstrom, the blind man in Don’t Breathe

Don’t Breathe is an intense and gripping horror-thriller movie of 2016, directed and produced by Fede Álvarez. He co-wrote the film with Rodo Sayagues. Compared to Fede’s earlier direction in Evil Dead (2013), Don’t Breathe has lesser blood splatters, an authentic plot, greater suspense and violence, and zero supernatural entities. The cast includes Jane Levy as Rocky, Dylan Minnette as Alex, Daniel Zovatto as Money, Christian Zagia as Raul, Franciska Törőcsik as Cindy Roberts, and Stephen Lang as Norman Nordstrom. The movie garnered high positive feedback from viewers. It has realistic performances, intelligent direction and camera work, crisp sound effects, and above all an atmosphere filled with tension and uneasiness. This is one of its strongest features that Don’t Breathe has managed to create a lingering sense of dread throughout the entire movie.

The well-curated storyline and stellar cast is the main selling factor of this film. A perfect thrill ride, starting from the moment the main story starts unfolding at the blind man’s house. The main theme of Don’t Breathe is claustrophobia, a feeling of getting trapped. Along with Hush (2016), it’s one of the best films of this genre in recent times. The movie doesn’t waste much time on character development. It comes to the crux of the plot quickly along with several twists and turns. A shocking revelation in the movie – accompanied by an unexpected ending – leaves the audience wondering what might happen next. The movie’s popularity led to a sequel in 2021.

Plot of Don’t Breathe (2016)

Rocky, Money, and Alex are three young delinquents in Detroit. Rocky’s boyfriend Money, gets to know about the house of a blind man Norman, a Gulf War veteran. Along with Alex, they decide to rob his house, as Norman holds an enormous amount of cash at home. The money is a settlement with an affluent lady, Cindy Roberts, who killed his daughter in an accident. After breaking in at night, soon they start realizing that this blind man is not so ‘helpless’ after all. He is far more horrific, physically strong, and ruthless than they could have imagined.

Soon after Norman realizes there are intruders at his home, he manages to kill Money. The game of hide-and-seek starts from thereon. Rocky spots a safe where Norman has kept the cash and manages to take it. Norman discovers there are more shoes, which means there are other burglars, and he gets a shock after realizing about his stolen money. While attempting to flee from the basement, they get horrified to discover Cindy. They manage to free her and try to escape, however, Norman ends up accidentally killing Cindy and it gets revealed that she was pregnant with his baby.

Norman loses his mind now and tries to kill Alex and Rocky. Moreover, he soon manages to get hold of Rocky and tries to artificially inseminate her, as he wanted a baby as a replacement for his daughter. Although Alex manages to save her, Norman kills him instead. Finally, after many fights and chases, Rocky apparently kills Norman and flees with his money. In the end, it is found that Norman is alive at a hospital, under stable condition, while Rocky and her sister move to Los Angeles.

Don't Breathe - Jane Levy as Rocky
Rocky in Don’t Breathe

Performance of the Cast

Stephen Lang outperforms every other character in the film as an old blind man. With fewer dialogues and menacing gestures, he aced at being an uncomfortable creepy personality who holds dark secrets. While playing the role of a blind person, he has succeeded in making the character look the least vulnerable. In the beginning, viewers might feel sorry for him and judge Norman as someone who is just trying to save his house. However, as the plot progresses, one gets to see his real face.

Jane Levy as Rocky does an outstanding job too. She manages to portray an excellent image of a burglar who is hungry for money and scared for her life, who is ready to give her everything for a better future. Dylan Minnette as Alex and Daniel Zovatto as Money decently contribute to the plot too. They each nail their characters as thieves who are desperate to take the money, without realizing what danger that awaits them. The rivalry and tension between them over Rocky amps up the overall drama.

Don't Breathe - Money, Rpcky, and Alex
(From left) Money, Rocky, and Alex in Don’t Breathe


Hence, Don’t Breathe is an appreciable chilling horror movie without the presence of any ghosts or demons. Unsettling performances, scary jumps, unexpected secrets, and nail-biting suspense makes it a must-watch for horror/thriller lovers. On August 13, 2021, the sequel of this movie Don’t Breathe 2 was released. Stephen Lang there played the same role as that blind man. Don’t Breathe ends leaving the audience wondering what will Norman do now since he is alive and why did he not report the police about Rocky and his stolen money. Therefore, it is one of those few new-age horror movies which is successful at both intellectual and visceral levels.

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