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The Air I Breathe

4 out of 5 stars 62 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

In this powerful film, four very different people on the edge of desperation are unexpectedly linked by their destinies. A top-notch cast featuring Forest Whitaker, Andy Garcia, Kevin Bacon, Brendan Fraser, Sarah Michelle Gellar and Emile Hirsch unforgettably brings to life the stories of a clairvoyant gangster, a rising pop star, an unlikely bank robber and a doctor desperate to save the love of his life. Filled with surprising twists and turns, this suspenseful, action-filled drama employs both brutal violence and aching poetry in a moving exploration of the search for happiness in a gritty urban world.


Every so often a crime drama with delusions of existential grandeur comes ambling down the pike. Sometimes, as in Tom Tykwer's Run Lola Run, a philosophically-inclined filmmaker strikes cinematic gold. If video director Jieho Lee's erratic debut falls short of that estimable mark, he can't be faulted for lack of ambition. Set in an anonymous urban metropolis and divided into the four pillars of life--happiness, pleasure, sorrow, and love--The Air I Breathe means to illustrate Henry Ward Beecher's opening epigram: "No emotion, anymore than a wave, can long retain its own individual form." A mild-mannered stockbroker representing happiness (The Last King of Scotland's Forest Whitaker) kickstarts this disquisition into destiny when he decides to take a risk (all four principals are unnamed). Inspired by a coolly confident client who stands for pleasure (Brendan Fraser), he places an unwieldy bet on a fixed race, attracting the attention of sadistic loan shark Fingers (Andy Garcia, doing his best Al Pacino impression). Fraser's character reports to the latter, who manages sorrowful pop star "Trista" (Sarah Michelle Gellar, last seen in the equally strange Southland Tales). The psychic henchman also looks after his employer's motormouth nephew, Tony (an uncharacteristically unconvincing Emile Hirsch). The lovelorn doctor (Kevin Bacon) who treats the hitman after an injury turns to Trista when his best friend's wife (Julie Delpy) falls ill. Whew. Inconsistent acting and clunky dialogue aside, The Air I Breathe infuses conventional genre thrills with introspection to intermittently engaging effect. --Kathleen C. Fennessy

Special Features


Product Details

  • Actors: Brendan Fraser, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Andy Garcia, Kevin Bacon, Forest Whitaker
  • Directors: Jieho Lee
  • Writers: Jieho Lee, Bob DeRosa
  • Producers: Bill Johnson, Christopher S. Pratt, Darlene Caamano Loquet, Emilio Diez Barroso, Jim Seibel
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, Dolby, Enhanced, Subtitled, Widescreen, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: Spanish
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: R (Restricted)
  • Studio: Velocity / Thinkfilm
  • DVD Release Date: May 20, 2008
  • Run Time: 95 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (62 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0014Z4OKW
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #64,828 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "The Air I Breathe" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD
The Air I Breathe is a movie of the entangled lives genre, similar to Crash in that respect, and it also conforms by way of gratuitous violence and strip clubs it gladly flaunts. But that is not to say that the narrative lacks depth or emotional layers. The viewer becomes acquainted with three lives that will intertwine so as to lend freedom to a fourth in four vignettes titled: Happiness, Pleasure, Sorrow and Love. These characters, respectively played by Forest Whitaker, the disgruntled Wall Street clerk turned bank robber and suicidal sociopath; Brendan Fraser, a reticent hitman who seems to have lost his ability to predict the future as he decides to forsake fealty to his heartless crime lord (Andy Garcia); Kevin Bacon, a doctor who saves the life of Trista, a persecuted pop-star, and is thereby enabled to save from a snake bite his best-friend's wife (Julie Delpy), with whom he also happens to be secretly in love; and Sarah Michelle Gellar's pop tart, Trista, who becomes entangled favourably by the three lives but will lose everything in the while, love, career, and friends.
This is the debut feature by Jieho Lee, a Korean-American director and screenwriter who wrote this script as a reflection to his journey in a "bimodal world". The cinematography is well suited by the description of bimodal, as the colors are very stark but a terrifying chiaroscuro breathes the presence of a dual tone universe which seems to preface the destiny we all have set out for us, but not independently of others. The acting is mediocre, but for the outstanding consummate performance of Andy Garcia, who seems to be getting better with time and roles, and the flaky, horned-up supercilious nephew of Garcia's role played by Emile Hirsch.
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First of all I am biased: I love films that tell stories about lives that impact other lives through small coincidental moments. Another reviewer of this movie used the term "butterfly effect." I automatically give this kind of film three stars even if it is a Tom and Jerry cartoon. Given this bias, I am rating this film four and a half stars because I was quite taken by the theme that tied the four stories together.

The rest is spoiler, so don't read any further unless you have seen the film already.

For me at least, this film was about the monotony and the banality of our lives that are the by product of conformity, routine and safety. Each of the characters in the four stories are leading lives of quiet desparation. Their daily life consists of monotonous routine and they are all emotionally inert.

Each character is protected and "safe" within the framework of their life and each takes a huge risk that catapaults them out of their cocoons into something bigger then their original selves. Through risk, danger, and moments of intense and reawakened feeling, they experience, however briefly,a peak moment of humanity that makes the risk worthwhile even though it may end in death.

The "Happiness" segment is about a stockbroker, a man who jumped through all the right hoops, fit quietly into society, and now live on the verge of despair until the moment he takes a monumental risk, and steps outside his boundaries to spend a glorious hour as a criminal living entirely in the moment, totally alive right up to the moment of his death, having had one brief shining moment of a happiness that bordered on ecstacy.
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2 Comments 22 of 24 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: DVD
"The Air I Breathe" is an ensemble piece about a psychic gangster and a chinese proverb. I can't think of another story that has ever followed this formula, and so I loved it from the start, from the first powerful beats of the soundtrack, as an original and beautiful, unheard new story. It is deep, but it will not beat you over the head with its message. Like a chinese proverb it politely opens a door to greater wisdom. It's up to the viewer to step inside.

Forest Whitaker is tremendous. All of the performances are stellar. I'm not familiar with Emile Hirsch or Julie Delpy, but they are both strong in supporting roles.

There is a lot going on here, on multiple levels, and so it is only natural that the movie seems a little too short. Bacon's story in particular might use some further fleshing. However, like a chinese proverb it must be concise. The undercurrent matters more than the surface, and some viewers will be turned off by this. When the proverb comes full circle, the film's purpose is spent, and audiences waiting for the resolution of a typical three act play will likely find the ending too quick, as there are numerous story threads that never get wrapped up. But the story here is the vessel, not the wine.

Many will view it with the same eyes that saw Scarface and miss a lot. Nothing against the brilliance of Scarface, but this is a gangster flick of a very different sort. After I watched it the first time, I wasn't sure just what I'd seen. Then I thought it through, and realized some of its subtle brilliance. I'll tell you what I mean, but first:

****Spoiler Alert****

"The Air I Breathe" What does that mean?
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5 Comments 30 of 35 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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