Breakdown is Hitchcock on steroids
I found only one thing bad about Breakdown, the new film by Jonathan Mostow, and that is the trailer. While it made me want to see the film, it divulged too much information. For a film like Breakdown to succeed, the trailer should not show us key pieces to the movie. I realize that if they don't show us them, no one will want to see it. And that's because Hollywood is just submitting to our needs, which happens to be knowledge. Our society has come to the point where we don't want to see movies if they don't tell us what they are about. Breakdown does just that, mainly because it wants to get viewers into the theaters (which it will do). But I wish that whoever was in charge of the trailer would have gone out on a limb and kept all the mystery hidden, showing a few clips, but not showing us the plot.
With that said, Breakdown is a taut, tense, Hitchcock-type suspense movie, relying on psychological and physical action. In fact, the psychological part of the film is better than the physical action going on. Watching Jeff Taylor (Kurt Russell) react to the different situations he is put into shows what his mind must be going through. Kurt Russell is a very good actor and portrays the character very well, displaying mental anguish and confusion to the point of desperation. Russell has the perfect look for the part by looking just like an average person. At the beginning of the film, he isn't looking for trouble--he just wants to get to San Diego to get on with his life with his wife, Amy (Kathleen Quinlan).
Suddenly, though, his car breaks down somewhere in the middle of nowhere. He can't figure out what is wrong with the car, but a huge 18-wheel semi stops to help them. The driver of the truck is Red Barr (J.T. Walsh), and he says that he can drive them to the next local diner and let them call a tow truck. Jeff tells him that he doesn't want to leave the car, but Amy says that she will go and call. That's as much as I am going to tell of the plot, because you either know the rest of it already, or you haven't and I don't want to ruin it for you. But Breakdown doesn't necessarily depend too much on the plot. It depends on its actors and characters and the situations which are thrown at them. The movie toys with the audience's minds and keeps throwing curve balls at us.
All of this, however, is directed with great skill by Jonathan Mostow, who also wrote the story and co-wrote the screenplay. Mostow knows his way around an action picture, even though it's his first major Hollywood release. Mostow keeps the pace steady, and never lets the audience get bored. The technical aspects of the film are also impressive. The cinematography is remarkable, and superb to most action pictures. The mountains provide a great scenic backdrop to the events happening in the foreground. The music is well written and sustains the mood and tension of the film. With Dino De Laurentiis as the producer, you can almost expect a terrific movie. De Laurentiis has much recognition behind him, including 33 Oscar nominations.
Amidst all this impressive technical aspects of Breakdown, are the actors who prove that even the gorgeous scenery isn't enough to overpower the performances. Kurt Russell is perfect for his role, as mentioned above, and Kathleen Quinlan is terrific in her role. J.T. Walsh (fresh off of Sling Blade) had a lot of the weight put on his shoulders as he is one of the essential key pieces, and his character must be believable for the film to work. And he does a very good job of it. M.C. Gainey, Jack Noseworthy, and Rex Linn (from Cliffhanger) all do great in their supporting roles. But watch for Russell's performance. It won't get an Academy Award nomination, but it's still powerful.
Breakdown is rated R for strong violence and terror, and for language. For me, everything in the film pretty much worked. There were a couple moments where I thought it was too coincidental, but for the most part, the movie maintains a level of believability. Even the ads admit and say, "It could happen to you." That's what is so frightening about the subject matter. It could happen to you, and it has happened to many people. Hitchcock is known for taking people's fears and using them against us. Mostow has done the same thing, but adding his own touches, has made a terrific and suspenseful film that everyone should enjoy.
*** out of ****
Reviews by Boyd Petrie