Film Review: Breaking In

Director James McTeigue’s action thriller Breaking In is undemanding, but does not offer too much in return. The film is entertaining yet flawed. 

Shaun Russell takes her children to sort out her late father’s house in the countryside, ahead of its sale. When a crew attempt to rob the house, Shaun must find a way to save her children…

Written by Ryan Engle (Non-Stop, The Commuter) Breaking In has a concept that could be described as Die Hard in a house. The set up is fairly swift, moving the narrative quickly on to the action. This is generally a good thing, although it means there is some clunky exposition. Action in the film is decently executed, although viewers may hope for some more memorable set pieces than Breaking In provides. In the set up, an advanced security system is depicted, yet the callbacks to this are not in any way smart. 

Pacing in the film is good; director McTeigue manages to create a palpable tension at certain points. Nevertheless, the ending feels protracted, which is unusual for a film of this genre and duration. It seems the film has reached its conclusion, yet it continues for a further couple of scenes, which extinguishes the hitherto strong tautness.

The film places a strong emphasis on the fact that the protagonist is a female and a mother. Whilst Breaking In is different in this respect – after all, it is frequently the case in action thrillers that the father rescues the family – screenwriter Engle makes it pointed. There are several remarks made about Shaun being a formidable woman, and this feels like totally unnecessary signposting. The audience can see she is a mother (and not also a trained fighter), and it feels like the filmmakers are patting themselves on the back with these comments. Some of the rest of the dialogue is hackneyed, which serves Richard Cabral’s stereotyped villain rather poorly. Other performances are good; Gabrielle Union is believable in her lead role, doing enough to make viewers root for her.

Breaking In is a decent film for those in the mood for switched-off, undemanding viewing. For those wanting more, the film will be a disappointment.

God Bless Us, Everyone

It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Instead of doing a traditional ‘best Christmas movies’ list, I thought I would put a slight spin on it. Below are my top three Christmas films, my top three films set at Christmas (where the main plot revolves around something other than Christmas) and my top three films screened at this time of year (but that have nothing to do with Christmas).

Traditional Christmas Films

1. The Muppet Christmas Carol

What is Christmas without The Muppet Christmas Carol? A surprising faithful adaptation of Dickens’ perennial classic (albeit with Muppets and songs), Brian Henson’s 1992 film is heart warming. Tiny Tim is one of the most endearing characters in film history, while the songs and humour make The Muppet Christmas Carol a festive essential.

2. The Nightmare Before Christmas

With beautiful imagery, a great score by Danny Elfman and a charming plot, Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas has become a Christmas staple. Jack Skellington does what we all secretly want to do; take over Christmas. Kidnapping the Sandy Claws is not the standard Christmas fare, however it is an awful lot of fun.

3. Scrooged

Another version of A Christmas Carol makes my top three, but for good reason. Yes, the very ending of the film descends into a reservoir of schmaltz. However up to this point, Scrooged is most amusing in its rendition of the Dickens tale by way of a television executive in late 1980s New York. It also features the cutest human Tiny Tim in the form of Calvin.

Films Set At Christmas

1. Batman Returns

‘Come what may, Merry Christmas Mr Wayne’. Batman Returns, set against the backdrop of the festive season, is rather a tragedy. But a fine comic book film, with the festive season rearing its head again and again. Gotham’s own Santa Claus turns about to be not as charitable as you would hope.

2. Gremlins

Subversion is the order of the day in Joe Dante’s Gremlins. The Bedford Falls-esque town is terrorised by small malevolent creatures in this black, Christmas-set comedy. Gizmo is one of the hottest characters ever committed to the silver screen, who wouldn’t want him as a Christmas present?

3. Die Hard

The ultimate Christmas-set action movie, Die Hard is nothing short of iconic. The office Christmas party goes awry, and only one man can save the day. No matter how bad your Christmas Eve may be, it’s a certainty that John McClane’s is worse.

Films Screened At Christmas

1. Labyrinth

I first saw Labyrinth on 24th December 1989. I am not sure if Labyrinth is one of my favourite films because I saw it on Christmas Eve, or if Christmas Eve is my favourite day because that was when I first saw Labyrinth. Whichever way, Labyrinth is a glorious 1980s fantasy musical.

2. The Wizard of Oz

I first saw The Wizard of Oz as a toddler around Christmastime. Needless to say, I was terrified by the Wicked Witch, and confused as to why mother was letting me watch a horror movie at such a young age. Wizard of Oz became a classic because of its constant scheduling in the Christmas period, something that still holds true today.

3. Singin’ in the Rain

My first viewing of Singin’ in the Rain was on Christmas Day. It is another film which has nothing to do with Christmas but is frequently screened in the holiday period. It is easy to see why; memorable tunes, some great comedy and the beguiling talent of Gene Kelly.