Breathing Room (2008)

OCTOBER 7, 2008


Maybe I should make a subgenre for a group of strangers who wake up in a room, trying to figure out why they are there. Since the first two Saw films, there have been several, and while Breathing Room fares far better than some of the others I’ve seen recently (such as Steel Trap), it still suffers from the same problems that they all have, resulting in a film that’s fairly well made but ultimately pretty dull.

Gabriel Cowan and John Suits are the two guys behind this one (one or both of their names appear in just about every credit on this movie), and to their credit, they do make a few nice adjustments to the formula. One is that they double the usual amount of folks. It’s usually around 6 or 7, but there are FOURTEEN here (though two die before the film begins), which at least keeps the body count up. Someone dies every 5-10 minutes, a far better return than Trap offered. I also like the sort of Paycheck-y way that there are about a dozen random objects in the room (a pen, a bottle of vodka, a lighter, etc), which must be put together in order to find a way out. It would have been easy to go the Saw route and just have them torture/kill each other throughout the movie, but instead they go for the paranoia/”no one is safe” angle.

But that’s part of the problem. They want us to be held in suspense the whole time, but it’s obvious right off the bat that the bad guy is one of two particular folks. Again, the Saw films had such great twists, it’s almost a guarantee that anyone making a film in their wake will try to blow our minds with some shocking revelation, so you will automatically suspect the “least” likely characters, and Breathing Room is no exception. It's a "It only works if you've never seen another movie" movie.

Another issue is that the killer has a scene alone which makes no sense in retrospect. It’s one thing to try to throw the viewer off, but to have a scene that simply should not logically exist is unforgivable. It would be like having Verbal Kint go to the bathroom and worry that the guy in the next stall is Keyser Soze*. And since after the scene I still suspected that this person was the killer anyway, it didn’t even work as intended.

Unlike the other indies in this trio of Anchor Bay pickups (apparently they are taking over where Lionsgate left off), the acting here is actually pretty solid. Our lead is Ailsa Marshall, and she looks a bit like Naomi Watts, which is fine by me. And while you still get the usual archetypes (the complete jerk, the guy who rises to the leader role, the hysterical woman, etc), there’s no one you want to see killed right away.

Anyway, I hope a moratorium is placed on these types of movies for a few years. There’s not a lot you can do with the scenario anyway, and there are just too many. Only way to tell them apart is to explain the motive (i.e. “Saw II is the one where the cop set up everyone up, and Jigsaw knew this somehow.”), and this movie doesn’t even offer a reason for the killer’s game. It’s like the inverse of Five Across The Eyes: these guys got the technical/acting parts right, but their script wasn’t up to par. Oh well.

What say you?

*Does anyone mind that I am constantly spoiling the end of The Usual Suspects in my reviews?


  1. "Since the first two Saw films there have been several...."

    Don't you think Saw got some of its premise from the Canadian movie Cube?

  2. Funny, you say this genre started with the Saw movies, but when you said "group of strangers who wake up in a room, trying to figure out why they are there," the thing that jumped to my mind were the Cube movies. I'm sure Saw made it popular, but it makes me wonder what was the first example of this type.

  3. Cube came along before Saw, yes, but Cube didnt make 50/80 million dollars like the first 2 Saw films. There was a long time between Cube and Saw without any copies that i can think of; but look how many there have been since. Its just the Canadians getting fucked over again, like Black Christmas.

  4. "Does anyone mind that I am constantly spoiling the end of The Usual Suspects in my reviews?"

    If someone (age factor obviously being relevant) hasn't seen the Usual Suspects by now, they get no pity from me.

  5. To clarify the ending a bit, she said she was a psychology student so the game was probably tests. As you said, not clearly explained. Overall, I thought the movie was good but it lacked definitive closer.

  6. She was a psychology student, and if you pay attention to the group they show at the end, they bear resemblance to the group throught the movie, even physically, hysterical redhead, tall spikey haired alpha male, long haired punk, even frail tiny,girl in the corner.

  7. this movie blew penis.

    1. i completely agree with u anonymous one of the worst endings i have ever seen.i thought ok heres a movie that has kinda a saw feel to it totally and a waste of of my time wrong i was.

  8. And Then There Were None


Movie & TV Show Preview Widget