Fantasia 2018 Review: DANS LA BRUME (JUST A BREATH AWAY) Is A Solid, Moving Thriller

Stay away from the toxic gas, folks.

Look up the title Dans la brume and you’ll find a couple different versions of what its English title might be should it ever get a wider release. Most places are referring to it as Just a Breath Away, but I’m also seeing In The Mist, which I believe is how the title is translated in the actual film (the version I saw, anyhow).

None of this really matters though. Whatever it’s called, Dans la brume is a small yet tense and moving thriller that almost certainly will get remade in English at some point (probably starring the Rock, come to think of it). The premise is just too good.

Here it goes: an earthquake hits Paris and almost immediately unleashes a thick toxic gas that kills everyone who breathes it. An estranged couple manage to get above the gas (it tops off at about three stories high), but in doing so leave behind their daughter who has an illness that keeps her locked in a filtered containment unit. They need to change the unit’s battery every five hours or so, but as the gas slowly but surely rises, they also need to figure out a way to find more permanent safety for the whole family.

People sensitive to plots that offer too many convenient answers to conundrums will find fault with how Dans la brume plays out, but that’s too bad for them. Given the extremity of this situation, there’s really no movie if our heroes can’t find a tank of breathable oxygen now and then. And beyond that convenience, they struggle hard through every action and plan they cook up to deliver their daughter a happy ending that becomes more and more unlikely as things progress. The plotting moves efficiently and elevates at a satisfying pace, even if you can see some elements coming a mile away.

It’s great when smaller-budget outfits dip their toes in big-Hollywood terrain like this. The scope, visuals and action is minimal by necessity but what they do pull off feels more impressive as a result. Dans la brume looks great. The fog, while explained as an unknown but natural occurrence, is a patient killer, unmoving and strange throughout the film.

The sharper focus also means the unrelenting tension is matched with thorough characters we actually get to know and fear for. There’s an emotional element to Dans la brume that is missing from its Hollywood counterparts (unless you cried during San Andreas, I mean). While undoubtedly a story focused on survival, it also offers satisfying themes about family and love across three generations.

But that’s just extra. At its core, Dans la brume is all about watching desperate people do increasingly dangerous things and just barely living long enough for the next ill-advised outing. It’s not action-packed - I would hesitate to even call it fun - but it is well made and engrossing on a smaller, more personal scale than we’re used to from stories like this.