While it’s hard not to be reminded of Alien from the premise, BREACH manages to set itself apart through its worldbuilding. Firstly, the creature here is vastly different to the iconic xenomorph, instead being a shapeshifting parasite that can reanimate dead hosts. Subsequently, the composition of each scene also subtly changes. Rather than constantly obscuring a single threat in shadow, there are well-lit fight scenes with frequent cuts between multiple attackers more reminiscent of an action film than a thriller (make no mistake though, the zombie crew members are suitably evocative and imposing). The successful blend of both horror and action into a sci-fi setting is a testament to director John Suits’ experience with the genres, and shows that he’s the perfect helmer for this kind of film.
Much like Suits, Willis is exactly the right choice for Clay and shines in the role. At this point, watching him play an asskicker who’s smarter than he looks and full of one-liners is hardly a surprise, but if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right? In fact, Clay builds on this classic Willis archetype by casting him as the calm, fun-loving, unofficial leader of the crew. He simply seems to be enjoying himself throughout, with his smirk and natural charisma easily drawing the viewers’ attention, especially in the second and third acts as the crew plots to defeat the zombies. The script even gives Noah a hologram projector on his wrist which is only ever used by Clay, purely to give Willis more time on screen.
However, the downside of focusing so much on Clay is that the other characters’ development suffers, which is the main area where I felt BREACH struggled. For instance, Cody Kearsley receives co-lead billing and early scenes hint at tension between Noah and the ship’s Admiral (Thomas Jane). When the Admiral is later awakened from stasis, this tension is largely sidelined in favour of explaining the backstory of his good friend Clay.
Thankfully, Kearsley still delivers a good performance, serving as an effective straight man early on before settling into the role of action hero in training. He’s also the only actor who shares scenes with Willis and isn’t completely overshadowed by him, but that may once again be because the script doesn’t build up the supporting cast. The result of this is slightly bizarre: I certainly enjoyed BREACH, but didn’t care what happened to most of the characters. It’s worth emphasising the first part of that statement though, as the film is consistently successful at blending genres and pulling off unexpected story beats. Perhaps because of its small scale, Suits, Willis and Kearsley have crafted some surprisingly solid sci-fi.