2880. Breakdown (1997)

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7.9 Nail-biting excitement throughout
  • Acting 8.0
  • Directing 7.9
  • Story 7.8
  • User Ratings (0 Votes) 0

Starring: Kurt Russell, J.T. Walsh, Kathleen Quinlan

Director: Jonathan Mostow

Running Time: 93 mins


Breakdown is an American film about a man who finds himself in a desperate search for his missing wife after their car breaks down in the middle of the desert.

A neat little thriller that combines great action with powerful and unsettling atmosphere, Breakdown is a hugely exciting watch from start to finish. It may not be as intensely mysterious at it would like, but its fast pacing and engrossing twists will have you on the edge of your seat throughout.

There’s a lot that I loved about Breakdown, but perhaps what delighted me most was just how reminiscent the film is of Steven Spielberg’s excellent thriller Duel.

Both films tell the story of lone drivers being terrorised in the middle of the desert, and both do so with stunning intensity and nail-biting excitement.

Much like Duel, Breakdown is a brilliant piece of work that takes a simple and small premise and turns up the octane, thrilling with intrigue and amazing action ask the way through.

What’s more, Kurt Russell is dynamite in the lead role, with a perfect blend of everyman innocence alongside genuine action chops. He’s not so gruff that the film feels like a bog-standard, Liam Neeson-esque revenge thriller, but nor is he too weak to make his heroic efforts to rescue his wife seem implausible.

In that, the film is a let perfect blend of Hollywood action and small-scale thrills, perhaps even more so than Duel. And even better still, Breakdown is at times just as uneasy as Spielberg’s classic, brilliantly using atmosphere to intensify its emotion.

From the moment Russell’s wife goes missing, the film really gets under your skin as he comes up short in every avenue to track her down. It’s a confusing, frustrating but most of all riveting start to the film that’s bolstered by a powerful sense of unease.

The only times the story doesn’t work as well come in its attempts to craft stronger, more shocking mystery that just isn’t there. Unlike Duel, which stuck to an entirely simple premise of one driver being terrorised by another, Breakdown occasionally tries to branch out a little more and bring wider mystery into the mix.

But it needn’t do so, given that its core story – Russell frantically searching for his wife – is so exciting. Those brief forays into wider mystery are generally ineffective and unfortunately distracting in what is otherwise a gripping thriller.

Overall, I really liked Breakdown. A striking and intense watch that brilliantly blends action with nail-biting thrills, it’s a film that will have you on the edge of your seat from start to finish, made all the better by an uneasy atmosphere and a fantastic performance from Kurt Russell. And that’s why I’m giving it a 7.9.

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About Author

The Mad Movie Man, AKA Anthony Cullen, writes articles and reviews about movies and the world of cinema. Since January 1st, 2013, he has watched and reviewed a movie every day. This is the blog dedicated to the project: www.madmovieman.com