Breathing Room (2008)

Breathing Room opens with a naked woman being thrown into a large, barren warehouse filled only with thirteen other people, all wearing numbered, prison-type uniforms and collars designed to perform lethal electrocutions if they step out of line. We soon learn that the woman’s name is Tonya May and she is the final contestant in a mysterious game. Each of the fourteen ‘players’ must obey the miscellaneous rules or risk facing the consequences. They have no knowledge of where they are, how they got there and more importantly, why they’ve been chosen to participate and whether they‘ll ever be released. Their only contact with the outside World is via a large screen on which a man intermittently broadcasts updates on their progression. It’s not long before the fourteen contestants are whittled down with increasing regularity during random ‘blackouts’ and the remaining survivors must put all the pieces of the puzzle together and discover which of them is the killer before they meet the same fate.

Breathing Room has much in common with Cube, taking the same ‘abducted strangers waking up in an unknown place filled with impending death’ theme, but it lacks the well-rounded plot that its superior predecessor had. The story has real promise and despite a few slow-moving scenes and a lagging mid section, is well scripted and contains some interesting characters. The problem that it suffers from however, is that it never really goes anywhere. The final few frames force the viewer to ask far more questions than they are provided answers for and as such is unsatisfying and confusing.

Ailsa Marshall is our blonde and busty heroine Tonya and for the most part, fills out her character (and overalls) pretty well but unfortunately she is given the least character development of the bunch and comes across as both bored and boring. Outside of our protagonist, the motley crew of detainees are fleshed out adequately and there are some genuinely intriguing folks amongst them but most are never given the screen time or dialogue that they deserve.

The limited warehouse set is as much of a character as the fourteen human contestants and is actually used quite well. It makes for a frightening and sometimes claustrophobic habitat and the hidden weapons and lack of exits makes it a fitting jail for our ‘inmates’.

The characters bicker, threaten and question one another and eventually a primitive, natural hierarchy starts to emerge. When one or two ignore the hierarchy, it inevitably results in the bloodshed of themselves or their companions. There are revelations along the way, such as the alarming knowledge that they are in the company of a murderer, a rapist and a paedophile and the way in which the group closes in on one another is an interesting psychological study in human behaviour. Alas, it never delves deep enough into the human psyche to be a genuinely entertaining thriller and it doesn’t dole out the scares or gore with enough regularity to be a competent horror so instead it’s an odd amalgamation of the two. With a better, more conclusive ending, a little more in the way of an effects budget and some additional editing, Breathing Room could have been an enjoyable horror movie. As it stands, it’s simply a less violent, less well-plotted Cube facsimile and a bit of a wasted opportunity.

Rating: ★★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆

One Comment on “Breathing Room”

  1. Jamie Carruthers says:

    This has popped right to the top of my Amazon recommendations, but I guess I don’t need to get it now.

    Apart from when you said the main chick was blonde and busty. That bit piqued my interest!

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