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Film Review: ‘Every Breath You Take’ Needs More Oxygen Flowing to the Brain

Vertical Entertainment

We used to get a film like Every Breath You Take seemingly one every few months. A psychological thriller with a good cast, a nonsensical title, and an undeserved twist at the end? Yep, that used to be a cinematic staple. These days, they’re somewhat rarer, and for good reason. Perhaps surprisingly, this movie has been floating around for nearly a decade, in script form. It harkens back to a different time. Unfortunately, it’s also not very good, utterly wasting its cast, disregarding brain cells along the way. What ultimately transpires is something too long, too dumb, and far too boring to ever work.

Every Breath You Take wants to unsettle you at every turn, but its disregard for your intelligence keeps that from ever happening. Give or take the third act twist that attempts to move genres, what happens is just one contrivance after another. Especially when we’re supposed to be following smart people, seeing them act so dumb becomes a numbing experience.

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It may appear like Phillip (Casey Affleck) and Grace (Michelle Monaghan) are living the life, but they’re dealing with the tragic loss of a preteen son. Plus, Phillip’s daughter Lucy (India Eisley) has recently been kicked out of school for cocaine use. So, there’s issues at home. All three of their relationships are strained, to say the least. At work, psychiatrist Phillip has been doing unconventional work with a troubled patient in Daphne (Emily Alyn Lind). He’s been making progress with her, but it’s been controversial among his peers. Then, an event sets her off, and before they can meet the next day, she’s taken her own life.

In the aftermath of Daphne’s death, her brother James (Sam Claflin) arrives on the scene. At first, he seems harmless enough. Then, as he ingratiates himself with both Grace and Lucy, it’s clear that something is up. Phillip has his initial suspicions, but is distracted by mysterious complaints that have suddenly been made about his psychiatry work. Of course, once he realizes what could be happening, a dastardly plan is already in place. What could James be up to? And, if he’s up to something, will the family be any match for him?

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Casey Affleck, Sam Claflin, and Michelle Monaghan are good actors. Every Breath You Take showcases very little of their talents, unfortunately. Affleck especially seems bored, as if his character’s nuances were removed at the last minute. Claflin turns in the best performance, mainly because he actually gets to display some emotion, but it turns overly broad (when it’s not simply brooding). Monaghan is treated the worst, only involved in one contrivance after the next. India Eisley’s character gets just as shabby treatment, but then again, that’s just how poorly this all is done.

Director Vaughn Stein trafficked in similar territory last year with Inheritance, which was slightly more successful, if very much a B-movie. Here, he has a long-gestating screenplay by David Murray, and it’s quite the albatross. Stein is an unremarkable filmmaker, all one-note and on the nose, but Murray’s script is worse. Everything is an all-too convenient moment where someone runs into someone else, or a character ignores important information. What should be thrilling is instead just stiflingly ineffective.

Every Breath You Take does have a solid cast, but they’re wholly wasted. So too is any and all potential for this to be an entertaining picture. Not a single moment is earned. You feel more for Affleck, Claflin, and Monaghan the actors than the characters. The former deserved better. The latter barely exist. This flick is utterly forgettable, and rather poor. Honestly? The less said about it, the better.

SCORE: ★1/2

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Written by Joey Magidson

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