Don’t Breathe (2016)//Story Structure

Written by Fede Alvarez, Rodo Sayagues

Act 1: 0:00-31:00

Sequence 1 = 0:00-10:21

COLD OPEN–>Routine Burglary–>Car/Alex’s father’s office (exposition)–>Money’s new Lead//Cafeteria (Exposition & INCITING INCIDENT)–>Alex in his room (Rocky’s appeal over text)//Rocky’s troubled home life//Alex says he’s in.


They are young, they rob houses in Detroit, and their goal is to get enough money to leave Detroit and head for California. Rocky and Money are in a relationship, Alex quietly pines for Rocky, and though he is quieter and more conservative, it’s through Alex that they are able to rob all these houses, using keys stolen from his father, the head of a private security company.

We meet them in the middle of a routine heist. Their reliable plan involves stealing no cash, and never anything in excess of ten thousand dollars. Then Money shows them a new target: An old war vet in a desolated neighborhood who, they believe, has a few hundred thousand dollars as a result of a settlement with the wealthy family of a young woman who killed his daughter in a car accident.

After first “refusing the call,” Alex is convinced by Rocky’s appeal to do it for her and her young sister.

INCITING INCIDENT: “If we do this right, we never have to do it again.”

Sequence 2 = 10:22-31:00

R/M/A Stakeout the Blind Man’s house (Group dynamics + internal motivations exposition)–>Initial Break-In Attempt hits a speed bump–>Rocky climbs through window, lets them in–>They scout the house//Money uses gas to ensure the Blind Man doesn’t wake up–>Money shoots off a lock to the basement//Money and Alex argue, Alex leaves the house–>Blind Man shows up, kills Money.

This is the longest sequence of the film–we first learn more about Rocky’s motivation and history of abuse. That moment in the car, when she tells Alex about the ladybug tattoo on her wrist, has a lot of heavy lifting to do. It has to help make us care about both her and Alex and do so efficiently, because the rest of the film is a near nonstop race of tension and life or death dramatic stakes.

Once they break into the house, the camera glides around, revealing a crawl space between floors (which will prove important to the story), as well as introducing us to the Blind Man, the antagonist. We see the gun below his bed (but Money sure doesn’t), as well as the television set playing old home videos of his late daughter.

Pretty quickly things take a turn when Money gets a little overzealous and shoots off a lock to the basement, where he is certain the few hundred thousand dollars must be hidden. Why else, he theorizes, would the door to the basement have so many locks on it? Later we’ll find out why.

Alex leaves, disturbed that Money lied and brought a gun (putting them in more danger should they get caught by the police).

After he leaves, the Blind Man awakens and easily kills Money, only after Money tells him there is no one else in the house.

Act 2: 31:01-1:03:44

Sequence 3 = 31:01-41:25

Alex re-enters the house (having heard the gunshot//Blind Man locks the door, trapping them without knowing it–>Rocky sees Blind Man enter code on the safe//She decides to steal the money ($1 million)–>they go into the basement in search of a way out (since all other doors are locked)–>Blind Man finds R/A’s shoes and realizes two more people are still in the house//Blind Man discovers his money is missing from the safe (41:25)

So this is the “fun and games” section of the script, where the promise of the premise is in full effect. What do you picture when you hear “young people break into the home of a blind former soldier?” Well, that’s what you get here: A lot of quiet sneaking around, creaking floorboards, quiet tension, etc.

The Blind Man, at this point, thinks he is alone in the house. Rocky hides in the closet, terrified, and Alex returns to the house after hearing the second gunshot. They are briefly separated as they try to keep silent while the Blind Man locks the door and nails a board over the broken bathroom window.

Rocky sees the Blind Man enter the code in a safe in the closet, and there she finds the money: $1 million

She decides to take it for herself, though this doesn’t fundamentally change her and Alex’s motivation, which is just to get the f*ck out of the house.

What it does do, however, is change the Blind Man’s motivation. First he thinks he’s alone, then he stumbles upon R/A’s shoes, which they had taken off upon their initial break-in so as to keep quiet. Then he checks the safe and realizes the money is gone. Boom. Now he knows there are two more people in the house and that they took something from him.

The sequence ends when R/A flee down into the basement in search of a way out, after seeing the Blind Man lock all the doors and windows.

Sequence 4 = 41:26-48:40

R/A in the basement, they find a woman tied up–>They’re about to escape but Blind Man gets in their way, shoots at them–>Captive dies, Blind Man howls.

Down in the basement R/A come across a startling surprise: A WOMAN locked up in the basement. They quickly figure out that she is the young woman who killed the Blind Man’s daughter. Again, this is a new plot element but it doesn’t change their goal. They quickly free her and race to the cellar door where the Blind Man greets them not so warmly and fires a few shots, killing the recently freed young woman.

The midpoint of the story is when the Blind Man discovers his captive is dead. He howls and his rage only grows.

MIDPOINT: Blind Man discovers his captive is dead.

Sequence 5 = 48:41-54:38

New mission = get upstairs and get out, using the keys they found in the basement–>Blind Man pursues R/A in the basement (lights out)–>R/A escape upstairs to ground level but the guard dog is there. They flee upstairs to the second level, trapped in another bedroom//debate: Trigger the alarm and call the police? (and risk incriminating themselves)–>As the Blind Man and his dog try to barge in, they find a vent small enough for Rocky to fit through. She leaves, Alex stays behind.

In the basement R/A found a new set of keys for all the locks upstairs. So they run back up to ground level where they find the Blind Man’s dog, originally sedated but now very much awake.

They flee upstairs and hide in a bedroom where they quickly discover they are trapped. It’s at this point that Alex wants to call the police, but Rocky points out that they themselves will be incriminated, for stealing the money. Before they can settle the debate, however, the Blind Man and his dog set about knocking down the door to the room.

R/A notice a vent to the crawlspace, and Rocky climbs in.

Sequence 6 = 54:39-1:03:43

Rocky crawls through the vent//Alex, attacked by the dog, falls out the window–>Blind Man tracks down Alex//Dog follows Rocky into the vent–>Blind man stabs Alex–>Blind man yanks Rocky out of the vent.

Alex, left behind, is knocked through a window by the dog and ends up unconscious on a plane of glass, slowly cracking beneath him while Rocky flees from the dog which follows her inside the crawlspace.

The two protagonists are separated for this entire sequence, and it doesn’t go well for either of them. While Rocky falls down a shaft and is knocked out, the Blind Man attacks Alex and stabs him. He appears to die, but you know as well as I do that he has some more life left in him.

After appearing to dispatch Alex, the Blind Man finds Rocky in the vent and drags her out, slowly snuffing most of the life out of her.

ALL IS LOST: Alex appears dead and the Blind Man has captured Rocky.

Act 3: 1:03:45-1:23:10

Sequence 7 = 1:03:45-1:13:55

Rocky wakes up trapped in the basement (like the captive at the midpoint)//Blind Man’s exposition about the captive and what he expects for Rocky–>Alex stirs awake, wounded but still alive//He traps the dog in another room–>Blind Man prepares to inseminate Rocky (gross)–>Alex bludgeons the Blind Man–>Debate: Keep the money and flee or give it up and turn Blind Man into the police? They keep the money and flee–>Blind Man escapes and shoots Alex dead//Rocky runs out into the street.

Now we’re back in the basement where Rocky finds herself imprisoned like the other young woman they stumbled upon. In a classic “villain monologue” fashion, the Blind Man explains that he imprisoned the young woman because she took away his daughter and he intended for her to give him another daughter. When that woman was killed, which of course he blames on R/A, he tells Rocky that she was indeed pregnant and so Rocky took away his other daughter. Now he plans to impregnate her and keep her prisoner until he has a new daughter (but what if he has a boy? Did he say he wants another daughter or just another child? I forget, but the premise of Don’t Breathe 2 suggests he has an affinity for daughters).

Well Alex shows up and saves the day. He bludgeons the Blind Man and they appear to have won. For a moment they consider calling the police but realize that if they are to turn the Blind Man in, then they will have to give up the money. Alex tells Rocky it’s her choice and he will support whatever she chooses.

They choose the money and flee upstairs but then the Blind Man shows up and shoots Alex dead. Rocky flees outside into the early morning.

Sequence 8 = 1:13:56-1:21:48

Blind Man sends his dog after Rocky–>She hides in car parked around the corner–>traps dog in the trunk (thematic connection to the story she told Alex in Sequence 2)–>Blind Man bludgeons her when she flees the car//Drags her down the street (COLD OPEN)–>Dragged back inside the house, Rocky triggers the alarm, disorienting the Blind Man–>Rocky fights back, hits Blind Man so he falls down into the basement, possibly dead–>Rocky flees as the cops arrive

Alex seems to be free of the Blind Man, but he sends his dog after her and she hides in the car that she and her two late friends took to the robbery. In an “all is lost” moment she seems to be… well done for, but Rocky hatches a plan to trap the dog in the trunk, paying off the story she told Alex about being locked in the trunk as a child (the lady bug story).

But then the Blind Man bludgeons and drags her back inside the house. She fights back, triggering the security alarm and disorienting him. She knocks him into the basement and escapes for good just as the cops arrive.

EPILOGUE = 1:21:49-1:23:10

Rocky and her sister at a cafe, on the way out of town (with the stolen money)–>Sees news report that the Blind Man is alive after being “terrorized by teens” and that he reported nothing stolen–>Rocky and sister leave for California.

A pretty concise, neat and effective epilogue in which we learn that the Blind Man survived and is seen as a victim. He’s still out there, in other words, so all is not safe…


  • The character motivation never changes as the story evolves. Instead each sequence break is marked by the antagonist learning new information: first he thinks there’s a single burglar, then learns there are two more, then learns they have found his money, then learns his captive is dead, etc.
  • The antagonist’s motivation evolves from: dispose of Money’s body to finding the others and retrieving his money, to getting revenge for the death of his captive, to finding a replacement captive, and son on.
  • For R/A they want the money and to escape, and for most of the movie those goals align. They never have to choose money or escape. Only at the end do they have to choose money or turning the Blind Man into the police.
  • Because almost the entire film takes place in the house, we don’t see much of these characters’ lives beyond the night in question. We know Alex has a father who works in security and we see a photo of them on the father’s desktop computer but he is otherwise absent from the film. It’s a bit curious that Alex participate in these burglaries since he appears to have a comfortable home life. I suppose the logic is that he is smitten with Rocky and will follow her to the edge of the world. Because she’s in, so is he. And with Rocky we do catch a glimpse of her home life and see exactly why she intends to escape Detroit and go to California.
  • So for Rocky, she wants to flee from her home life. For Alex, he wants to be with Rocky.
  • In general the characters are isolated, not just when they break into the Blind Man’s home (in a deserted street where he can literally drag a woman unconscious down the road without raising alarm), but even in the cafeteria where they hatch their plan. No one else is around to hear them scheme.
  • In the script, we catch a glimpse of the family leaving the home that they burglarize in the first scene but in the film there is no such glimpse of the family. Instead they remain isolated, seen only in relation to each other. *The only detour from this is when we see Rocky’s family, but even then it serves to show how alone she is.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s