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Saturday, December 19, 2020

Review: Breakdown

Director: Thomas Haley 

Screenplay: Dan Jagels

Year: 2020

The infected flood the hospitals, and doctors try to find a cure.  Life as we know it has changed. Does it seem familiar? Well, “Breakdown” opens with a message that includes these words, a statement that strikes too close to home in these times in which we live through a pandemic, well-described by these words.

A mysterious virus has whipped a good portion of the population.  The infected that remain alive are transported to quarantine zones without knowing if they will get out of there alive. A man does all that he can to find a cure to save himself and whatever's left of humanity.

“Breakdown”’s plot presents a scenario as if COVID-19  were a lot more deadly than it has been and as if we had lost a much larger portion of humanity. The feeling of desolation is palpable as, for most of the movie, we only follow one character, and his interactions with other people are sporadic and short-lived. The rest of the film is a character story, where it goes deep into knowing the character Tim and his motivation to find a cure for the disease.

Tim, interpreted by director Thomas Haley (“Desert Moon”), is a scientist infected with the virus who escapes a quarantine zone and installs in a veterinary clinic to find refuge and to have a  place in which to work with his vaccine.  Besides trying to save his own life, his work is a sort of distraction and catharsis to overcome the loss of his family at the hands of the deadly virus and to overcome solitude. The movie’s development pivots around Tim, and it can be said that Haley does a good job with the character and manages to capture the attention of the viewer, although, in some parts, his acting can seem a little bit rough around the edges.

“Breakdown” develops in the veterinary clinic almost entirely, except for the unnecessary opening scene on the beach.  The limitation that can arise from recording everything in a small place, in this case, plays in its favor, as it exacerbates the feeling of solitude and claustrophobia, which are crucial elements for the main character’s development. However, the script’s lack of material to keep the character busy makes it feel long and even monotonous in some parts.

“Breakdown” deals with a topic that these days can seem too familiar, and the emotional aspect can be hard to manage if you are sensitive to these topics or if you have been deeply affected by the current pandemic. Mainly it is a character study focused on a man infected by a virus that tries to find a cure, but it comes across slow as the script does not give the main character enough to do in the limited space. The small place and the use of lighting help it create atmosphere, but it goes to waste.

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