Some movies come and go that don’t gain a lot of notice but are far more hard-hitting than anyone realizes since they contain a hint of realism that’s a bit terrifying since they show something that could happen in the real world. In a lot of movies like Breakdown, several plot points might not be quite as feasible since there’s usually something within a story such as this that doesn’t quite feel like it would be used in real life. But this movie still manages to raise the hair on the back of a person’s neck given that its premise deals with kidnapping and gaslighting in a way that would make many people question their sanity. The whole movie revolves around Jeff Taylor, who’s crossing the country with his wife, Amy. When the Taylor’s are confronted by the driver of a pickup that Jeff almost hits earlier on the road, it becomes apparent to the audience that the Taylor’s might be out of their element, but of course, this doesn’t hit home until a little later.
When their vehicle breaks down, Jeff stays with the rig when a passing trucker offers to take Amy to a nearby diner where she can call for a tow truck. Imagine being stuck on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere, waiting for your spouse to come back, and waiting hour after hour without a tow truck, or your spouse. It’s only when Jeff takes a look at the engine and realizes that someone disabled the battery by disconnecting several leads that he fixes the problem and makes his way to the diner. But while it’s a little predictable, it’s still unnerving when Jeff seeks out Amy, only to find that no one has seen her, and no one is willing to help him with any information.
It’s only when a supposedly mentally deficient individual gives Jeff a clue that he suspects that something far more sinister is going on. Of course, the moment that he follows the advice given by the man that dares to speak to him, Jeff finds out that he and Amy are part of a plot that revolves around the idea that they have $90k in their bank account, even though they only have $5k, which the kidnappers don’t know. The terror continues to mount when Jeff is pursued, shot at, and forced to go on the run, without his vehicle, as he’s then captured by the kidnappers and forced to make a transaction at a local bank to obtain his ‘fortune’. One might think that even if he was being watched carefully that Jeff should have called the cops and alerted them, but at that moment the paranoia was no doubt riding higher than the sky, and instead of calling the cops and taking the risk that they were in on it, he tricked the kidnappers with a few well-placed hundred dollar bills. Getting the best of the individual that he encountered earlier in the movie, Jeff then found out where the trucker was that had kidnapped his wife. From there it’s a thrill ride as Jeff finds the trucker’s home, frees his wife, and is then engaged in a brutal car chase that eventually becomes the end of the kidnappers.
The reason this movie is so terrifying is that its realism hits home with those that pay attention since out in the middle of nowhere one can’t help but think that anything could happen, no matter how much it might sound like paranoia. There are still wide-open spaces throughout America where those without morals or any type of shame could very easily take advantage of those that aren’t paying attention and those that might be seen as easy marks for the morally bankrupt. The premise of this movie wasn’t enough to keep it noticeable for a long time since it was released in 1997 and it’s fair to state that if one mentioned it now a lot of folks might not remember who was in it or what it was about. That’s all well and good, since remembering every movie from every decade is impossible and, more than anything, if it doesn’t create a reason to pay attention, then a lot of people are going to keep moving on to the next big thing.
At the end of the day though, this story is unique horrifying since the fact that any human being would even think about this kind of scenario makes it just a little more realistic. And if anyone’s keeping count, this kind of thing in the middle of nowhere isn’t something that is complete fiction. It’s a scenario that could happen, even if one hopes that it will never happen. For that reason, it deserves a lot more respect, if only because it’s closer to reality than people want to admit.
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