On paper, there's little about Breach that isn't right up my alley: deep-space horror, a parasitic threat, and Bruce Willis and Thomas Jane kicking extra-terrestrial ass...
...And while the film presents a laundry list of appealing concepts and promises, its ability to satisfyingly deliver on any of them is another matter.
Director John Suits and writers Edward Drake and Corey Large have created yet another environmental cautionary tale with Breach.
Set in 2242 AD, Breach's portrayal of humanity is a bleak one. Humans’ ravaging of Earth has led to their fleeing to the stars to escape a deadly plague. Our protagonist Noah (Cody Kearsley) and his pregnant wife Hayley (Kassandra Clementi) barely make it aboard the colony ship Hercules before it launches for the colony planet New Earth. With their troubles seemingly behind them, Hayley heads to cryosleep for the six-month duration of their journey, while Noah handles his post as a janitor.
Something has made it aboard the ship, however. Not a simple stowaway, but a life form. And it’s hungry.
A parasitic organism begins infecting crew members, turning them into zombie-like killers, and it's up to a ragtag group of survivors led by drunkard Clay Young (Bruce Willis) to save the ship's crew.
If this narrative sounds somewhat familiar to you, that’s because it is. Breach follows its rudimentary narrative framework to the T, making for a film that plays out exactly as you'd expect it to. Some attempts are made to provide a bit more variety to its story, like introducing a faction of rebels that think humanity should end rather than restart on another world, but this narrative thread never delves deeper into their ideology or amounts to any interesting plot developments beyond a character using it as a flimsy justification for their actions.
As for Breach's characters and star power, where to begin. Most characters are excessively agro, hard-drinking hardos, who spend much of their time reveling in their degenerate nature. In contrast, our protagonist Noah’s only defining trait is that he is at complete odds with the rest of the crew. This results in a majority of dialogue amounting to others belittling and bullying Noah, given his kind-hearted and soft-spoken nature. Unfortunately, this doesn’t give the dialogue much range to engage or provide further understanding of any of our characters.
You would hope that, considering the film's protagonist is rather forgettable, the star power of Bruce Willis and Thomas Jane would help to shed some semblance of personality or action or humor. Something.
Despite Thomas Jane's being third billing on Breach's poster, he is in all of ten minutes of the film. He appears early on to establish his role as admiral in charge and that Hayley is his daughter. He then shows up an hour later for an underwhelming action segment. Other than vaping and being a cliché riddled "I should kill you for dating my daughter" overprotective father, Jane's involvement is a wasted opportunity, given what he's capable of.
And then there's Mr. Willis. You would think with a filmography that spans 40 years and some of the most famous action movies of all time, Willis would leave a mark on Breach. Unfortunately, the film underwhelms with him as well. Willis does little more than lift a flask to lips or bust characters' balls, the punch line always being to the effect of "I'll kick your ass."
In one scene, he literally punches someone as a punchline.
Attaching these two big-name actors onto Breach brings nothing to the film; their nondescript characters could be played by virtually anyone else.
My qualms with the film largely stem from its inconsistent writing and underwhelming performances. That being said, I could have potentially overlooked these moments had the film delivered on its action-horror premise. Sadly, it falters here as well.
Breach is essentially a zombie space film. Crew members become infected by a parasitic worm and then beat or eat anyone they stumble upon. We get brief glimpses of the worm early on, and when zombies open their mouths, a worm tentacle protrudes, but it’s a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it effect. Even though the film never capitalizes on scaring the audience, I could get behind a straight-up action shoot 'em up approach. But the film stumbles even here.
A majority of the action is shot so close up that it obscures the audience's view of what is happening. We often see limbs landing on the ground or close-up shots of a gun being fired rather than watching the impact of action. The viewer sees the after-effects of violence or said act of violence, but rarely any actual contact. This essentially neuters action, as it feels as if the crew are shooting around action to conceal the film’s constraints.
And this, unfortunately, is what makes Breach feel cheap. The effects work is that of a made for TV movie, plagued by artificial gun effects, poor CGI, or some messy and brief creature design. Despite a promising premise and seemingly the star power to back it up, Breach's failure to capitalize on its potential makes it a film I'd struggle to recommend at all.
Breach comes to theaters, VOD and Digital from Saban Films December 18th.
By Jay Krieger