Breathe Review | Jennifer Hudson & Milla Jovovich Star in Typical Thriller

When she’s not hosting her talk show, Oscar-winner Jennifer Hudson stars in movies every now and then. She was rightfully Academy Award-nominated for her spellbinding turn as the one and only Aretha Franklin a few years back, and now she’s back in the leading role of yet another high-profile feature film. Breathe, however, is much less impactful, despite its boasting of a dynamite cast that also features Common (Silo), Milla Jovovich (Resident Evil), Sam Worthington (Avatar), and Quvenzhané Wallis (Beasts of the Southern Wild).




In addition to Dreamgirls star Hudson, Jovovich has starred in some terrific movies over the years, though Breathe falls short of most of them. Both leading ladies give it their all, though it doesn’t help that their male counterparts, Common and Worthington, are arguably underutilized—even if the Australian Worthington turns a bit maniacal in the third act. Oh well.


Breathe Presents an Intriguing World

Breathe (2024)

2.5/5

Release Date
April 11, 2024

Pros

  • The stacked and talented cast helps the film.
  • The outdoor visuals are impressive and a joy to see.
Cons

  • The story is nothing audiences haven’t seen before, and better alternatives are available.
  • Though the cast is full of talent, some characters are underutilized and disappointing.
  • An R-rating would have helped Breathe.


Rapper-turned-actor Common has showcased his acting range in recent years. He was hilariously hardcore in John Wick: Chapter 2, particularly in that final shootout opposite Reeves’ Wick while they’re out in public. Who can forget? More recently, his villainous turn in the Apple TV+ hit series Silo was one of the highlights of season 1. It’s too bad, then, that he’s only featured in the first act of Breathe, and that’s about it. What a tease! It is understandable, however, that director Stefon Bristol (See You Yesterday) wants to start off with a bang with said talent. Common plays Darius, a conflicted dad navigating a conflicted planet Earth that’s no longer welcoming of its inhabitants. Why? Well, for starters, oxygen isn’t exactly an available resource in this futuristic, dystopian universe. Oof.

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Darius resorts to bringing his wife Maya (Hudson) and teenage daughter Zora (Wallis) underground, where they trick themselves into thinking they have views of the beach, thanks to digitally generated images and so forth — think Desmond’s underground living experience in ABC’s beloved show Lost. Tragedy has already directly impacted Darius when the film kicks off, as someone close to him has just fallen victim to this cruel, failing world around him. Darius is losing hope and needs to venture out above ground to find a more viable solution for his clan.

As young Zora, Wallis provides occasional narrations that might even remind cinephiles of her purposefully childish voiceover work from her groundbreaking feature Beasts of the Southern Wild — a far superior film, unfortunately. Years later, Wallis would go on to do a disappointing reimagining of Annie alongside Jamie Foxx. Breathe won’t be memorable at the end of the day either, sadly enough, but Wallis remains sharply appealing throughout this latest effort, especially once some intruders come knocking on her character’s door…


Death Comes Knocking at Our Door in Breathe

One of the best Twilight Zone episodes of all time involves a young Robert Redford playing “Death” (surprise twist!) in the form of an injured police officer who knocks insistently on an elderly woman’s door. She won’t let him in because she knows her time is coming. In Breathe, Maya tries to shout away a pair of randos: Tess (Jovovich) and her hotheaded pal Lucas (Worthington). Of course, Darius has already ventured out by now, so it’s just the ladies fending for themselves underground.


Maya is sharp-tongued, but this is another example of where the movie falters. Clearly, the producers in the editing room decided they wanted a PG-13 end result instead of a hard R-rating, so there are multiple occasions (including when Tess tries to enter Maya’s underground fortress) where Maya says “mother-freaking” instead of, well, the more natural-sounding alternative. In this day and age, when R-rated movies can certainly make a killing at the box office, it makes you wonder why they might have wanted to dull down the language here.

The reliably appealing Worthington, fresh off acclaimed projects like Avatar: The Way of Water and Under the Banner of Heaven, has a ball here as his wildcard Lucas persona grows increasingly rambunctious during the fortress break-in. Jovovich, meanwhile, is a missed opportunity. She has more than proven herself to be a bad-ass on the big screen but comes off a bit too reserved and morally torn in her Tess role — a bit too much at times to the point where we’re left thinking, “Jeez, when is she going to just dust off the assault rifle and start taking names?” Not that we want her to take aim at the family in turmoil, as Hudson and Wallis are more than easy to root for.


No matter what the ending is here, there’s an easy setup for a sequel, but don’t count on that happening. The first go-around is overshadowed by missed opportunities and a too-contained feel that makes it easy for us to veer towards other more promising post-apocalyptic features, such as Children of Men and Blade Runner (both of which director Bristol recently told us were inspirations behind Breathe, interestingly enough). From Capstone Global and Warner Bros., Breathe is now available in theaters and on digital.

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