Movie Review: A Breath Away (2018)

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AKA: Just a Breath Away; Toxic; Dans la brume

With so much of the film's budget and overall success dependent upon its special effects, it's become standard operating procedure for disaster movies to move as quickly as possible to get right to the catastrophic event.

Sketching the main characters with the broadest of strokes before placing them in peril, with only the briefest of introductions to guide us, all too often in this genre it's up to the actors and audience to fill in the rest.

And that's precisely what happens in director Daniel Roby's A Breath Away, which flies the viewer and our lead Mathieu (Romain Duris) to Paris and hits the ground running, before that is, the ground strikes back by knocking out the power after an earthquake and filling the city with toxic gas.

Discovering the deadly effect of the mist as bodies drop before his eyes, Mathieu races across the street from his apartment to the one that Olga Kurylenko’s scientist and teacher Anna shares with their beloved daughter Sarah (Fantine Harduin), who suffers from an immunodeficiency disorder and lives in a glass bubble.

While thanks to battery power, she's safe for the time being in her filtered air enclosure, Mathieu and Anna have no choice but to climb as high as they can past the line where the fog stops.

Taking refuge in the top-floor apartment alongside their elderly neighbors (Michel Robin and Anne Gaylor), after discovering that the substance is not only rising but also doesn't affect their skin, Mathieu suddenly turns into Indiana Jones while going on the hunt for supplies and oxygen masks so he and Anna can continue to change Sarah's bubble battery.

Realizing that help is not coming, they risk everything to track down the medical equipment their daughter would need for them all to leave the building together.

Never clarifying just what Mathieu's current relationship is with Anna and most pressingly, how he acquired his particular set of Liam Neeson worthy skills, while the logic challenged film asks you to overlook a lot (including how he suddenly seems to know the rules of surviving in the mist), the actors are game and Breath's cinematography and visual effects are first rate.

Shot by Pierre-Yves Bastard and boasting effects by Bruno Mallard and a gifted team, visually of course, A Breath Away pays tribute to thematically similar works such as The Fog and The Mist.

However, in pulse quick quickening action sequences which find Mathieu and Anna wandering the foggy streets of Paris with only a flashlight to guide them before Mathieu must race back to the apartment through a rooftop obstacle course, Roby's film is also reminiscent of apocalyptic disaster movies like I Am Legend and World War Z.

A far cry from his more contemplative roles in highbrow fare, it's here where we realize just how much A Breath Away is augmented by character actor Romain Duris' commitment — even to the ridiculous — in an impressive turn as our surprisingly action oriented lead.

Desperately in need of a stronger script, although Breath generates its fair share of excitement, it's a shame that, despite the talented cast and what should have been a naturally touching storyline, we just don't feel that connected to characters we know so extraordinarily little about.

Couple that with the film's inconsistency, including introducing Mathieu as a motorcycle rider and then forgetting he has a motorcycle until the end of the movie which — awesome action scenes aside — sure would have made more sense than wasting time and oxygen running around Paris by foot and we're left with a film that changes from scene to scene, kind of like the mist.

Infused with a pro-environmental message, while about halfway through the movie we start to get an inkling as to where this will all be heading, it still makes for an intriguingly Shyamalanesque turn of events, even if we wish that the work overall would've been worthier of the plot twist.

Striving to give its viewers a little of everything from action to horror to family drama, Roby's film loses its footing thanks to a weak foundation. And although it has its moments, like most disaster movies, A Breath Away will most likely be remembered for its big catastrophic event, a running Romain Duris, and foggy special effects.

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