In space, no on can hear you steal: A critical review of “Breach” (2020)

This blog wouldn’t be attempting to finish the year by exclusively covering cosmic horror if we didn’t like the genre. You know who else likes cosmic horror? The writers of “Breach.” I can tell because they recycle every notable cosmic horror film, television show and video game since the Hoover administration that they can think of. Instead of more introduction, here’s the plot of the film, with a couple comparisons pointed out as we go:

A group of humanity’s best and brightest get onto a sleeper ship after Earth appears to be doomed (shades of “Pandorum”). Everything’s going soap opera smooth until an alien entity starts entering the mouths and bursting out of the chests of the blue collar skeleton crew tasked with running the ship (“Alien,” natch). The dwindling staff decides to reawaken the ship’s commander (“Pandorum” again). He and his squad of overly confident space marines (“Aliens”) find the threat has mutated, and they face human hosts turned into zombies with bleeding eyes and gooey black drool (“Helix”).

That’s far from the end of repurposed plot points. We haven’t mentioned even mentioned crawling through the vents while someone shouts directions (“Alien,” “Aliens,” “Alien: Isolation”). Or how the final creature design looks straight out of “Resident Evil 2.” Or how the crew speculates about its origin, and someone theorizes it’s older than the universe. Was that lifted from “Event Horizon”? Warhammer 40K? Something else? Even the name of the film is the same as a flash game from 10 years ago about, you guessed it, a parasitic organism that goes zombie-nutso (by way of “The King in Yellow”) on a space station.

But who cares. “Breach” doesn’t try to be anything more than a derivative pulpy sci fi thriller. There’s no problem with that. In fact, given some of the problems this film has with its mechanics and narrative, the lack of originality is downright endearing.

Bloody Disgusting theorized that the film drew inspiration from “The Thing,” but in this blog’s opinion, that’s one of the few sources that is not blatantly on-screen. Unlike “The Thing,” there’s never a sense of mystery – in “Breach,” it’s always pretty clear who’s infected and who isn’t. However, the first half of the film has the potential for a similar tension. When the skeleton crew fans out over the ship in pairs to hunt down the creature, it feels like maybe this is going to be a psychological thriller. Then the zombies hordes show up, and it becomes a zombie shooting movie in space. OK, I guess, but where are these hordes coming from? I thought the passengers were all asleep.

This change of genre might be fine for fans of “Doom,” but they will still likely wonder why all the security forces shake their guns when they shooting them, like little boys going pew-pew-pew while firing finger guns. Or why the bullet sprays look like lens flare effects. Or why both the people shooting and the zombies seem to change location from shot to shot. Or where everyone’s wounds disappear to when they tumble to the ground.

All right, so the film has poor direction, inadequate budget and bad continuity on top of its inconsistent and unoriginal narrative. Is there anything else to recommend?

There are a few positives. The first is Bruce Willis in a prominent role. He’s charismatic and knows how to handle the pulp dialogue in a fun way, so he’s always watchable even as he slogs through the same script as everyone else. He’s easily the best thing happening on screen. Thomas Jane doesn’t fare quite as well, but that might be because he’s only on-screen for a few minutes. He has the role of “guy who shows up long enough to growl some lines and get his name in the credits,” but at least he growls with the best of them, even if it is a thankless task.

There are also a few interesting lighting choices, with some of the industrial space station corners shot in various foggy monochrome: a green workroom, a red corridor, a blue docking station. It’s about as atmospheric as things get, and it utilizes the film’s limited budget well.

The final thing of note is the ending, which is so bonkers that the badness of the film might actually circle back in on itself and become good again. If you’re like me, you’ve watched a couple of thrillers, and you think you know all the tricks. I figured there was going to be a twist ending, and partway through the film, I saw the perfect moment to set it up. But the film kind of forgot about the set up when the ending rolled around, so I assumed it was going for a less twisty conclusion. But no, it introduced a new element in the last second, and the film changed genres again to become… a kaiju movie? I have to admit, I did not see it coming, so congrats on that. Unless it was taken from “The Cloverfield Paradox,” just in case you thought we were done borrowing. But if we are so desperate we resort to borrowing from “Cloverfield Paradox,” it really is time to stop.

This blog still doesn’t quite see “The Thing” comparison, but at one point (and in similar circumstances), “Breach” does repeat a line from that film. Bruce Willis’s space janitor sees the alien creature, thought to be destroyed, start to rise again. “You’ve got to be fucking kidding me,” he groans. I concur.

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