The Hunt Begins
Blind Man’s Bluff
Its in the Eyes
The phrase “dark horse” is thrown around a lot and more often than not its unjustifiably used. When it comes to Indian Amazon Original Breathe, its 100% accurate in describing the great work put into this show you’ve probably never heard of. Playing host to well written characters, a unique aesthetic boasting some very slick editing and composition as well as a perfect pacing throughout, Breathe is easily one of 2018’s best TV shows so far. Although the language may put some people off, especially with the constant jumps between English and Indian dialect, anyone interested in crime thrillers should absolutely check this out.
The story jumps between two fathers for most of the run time but the plot predominantly gravitates around Danny (Madhavan), a conflicted father whose son, Josh, suffers from cystic fibrosis. With a lack of donors and a rare blood type, the doctors grimly inform the family that Josh only has 6 months to live. Distraught and out of ideas, Danny takes matters into his own hands to keep his son alive, targeting organ donors with the same blood type and causing them to meet an untimely end. In doing so, Danny swings the odds back in his son’s favour by pushing him further up the donor list. With empathetic motives and an internal turmoil gripping his character, Breathe cleverly makes Danny feel like a real human being rather than an evil caricature. Opposite to Danny and equal in his inner anguish is Kabir (Amit Sadh), a no-nonsense police detective reeling from a tragedy in his own past that weighs heavily over his own actions and future.
As the series progresses the two characters inevitably clash and an engrossing cat and mouse game between Danny and Kabir ensues around the middle of the show, changing the dynamic to make the hunter the hunted. This continues right through to the climactic episode that manages to polish everything off in a believable and satisfying fashion. Make no doubt about it, Breathe is an excellent self-contained story and although some of the scientific facts around organ donation and what constitutes as an exact match are a little skewed, it’s a minor nitpick and doesn’t detract away from the thriller at play here.
With 8 episodes at a little under 40 minutes a piece, Breathe wastes no time with filler, instead filling each scene with a unique artistic flair to help it stand out. From early quick cuts reminisce of Danny Boyle’s signature style through to interesting blended shots with faded handwritten letters, stylistically Breathe is very impressively edited. Unlike in some series’ that tend to forget this artistic presence in the later episodes, Breathe is consistent and right through to the final moments keeps its artistic presence a fresh reminder of its uniqueness.
All of this good work would account for nothing if the acting wasn’t on point and thankfully Breathe excels here too. Although Amit Sadh is excellent in his role as the hard-nosed, no-nonsense police detective, Madhavan ultimately stands out as the best performer. The way he effortlessly switches from empathetic, internally wrecked father to cold killer is outstanding and some of the close up shots of him are genuinely unnerving. The supporting cast is good too although there isn’t anything much to note here as most are overshadowed by the two excellent lead characters. There’s a light attempt at some humour with clumsy police officer Malwankar (Shrikant Yadav) but it’s largely ineffective although its subtle enough not to overpower the tone of the show that stays suitably bleak throughout.
It’s hard to fault Breathe and for good reason too, the show is outstanding. It’s not every day a thriller like this comes along and manages to nail all of its elements to such a degree to make it near flawless. With 8 well paced episodes playing host to some excellent acting and a self-aware script, this Indian crime thriller is impressive from start to finish. The language barrier may put some people off and some of the science around organ donating is a little skewed but it’s largely superficial in what’s otherwise a very well made show. It helps that Breathe boasts some very artistic editing too and the uniquely presented cinematography puts the show above others in this category. Whilst it may not be as hard-hitting like other foreign shows like La Casa De Papel, Breathe confidently showcases its elements in silence easily making it one of the best shows released this year you’ve probably never heard of.
Verdict - 9/10