When Jeff (Kurt Russell) and Amy (Kathleen Quinlan) set off cross-country from Boston to San Diego, he thinks he is leaving his troubles behind and moving on towards fantastic new beginnings.
Then, while taking the 'scenic route' through the beautiful but vast, desolate spaces of the desert Southwest, their car breaks down. Jeff and Amy find themselves stranded on a seldom-traveled road, many miles from the nearest human habitation. Fortunately, help appears at had as an 18 wheeler semi truck comes into view on the horizon.
The driver is Red (J.T. Walsh), an over-the-road trucker. Immaculate and professional, he seems to harken back to a time when long-haul truckers were "knights of the road." He offers Jeff and Amy a ride to Belle's Diner, the nearest place along this lonely stretch of highway, where they can escape the hot sun and call for a tow truck. After initial hesitation, Amy agrees to go with him, since it's obvious there might not be any other way to get help; she'll call the tow truck from the restaurant while Jeff waits with the car.
In the meantime, Jeff locates the problem - a loose wire - and fixes it. With the car back in working order, he drives on to Belle's Diner to catch up with Amy so they can continue on their way... but Amy isn't there. The diner isn't exactly a bustling place, yet the bartender and customers claim they never saw either Amy or Red. When Jeff continues to question them, he gets only cold stares and furtive glances - as though he were delusional, driven crazy by the heat and the long lonely highways. Jeff's growing anxiety is only made worse by his gnawing suspicion that they aren't telling him the truth.
Getting back on the road, Jeff searches for Red's truck - but when he finds it, Red who just hours before so charmingly offered his assistance, denies ever having seen Jeff or his wife. The police are of no help, as they view Amy's disappearance skeptically. They've seen many couples fight and split while making long distance car trips. Who's to say this is any different?
With nowhere and no one to turn to, Jeff sets forth on his determined, increasingly desperate search for Amy - who has vanished utterly into the immense, sun baked emptiness of the West...
If only the car hadn't broken down in the middle of nowhere...
"Breakdown" takes an ordinary man into the vast open spaces where the law does not reach - and into the dark spaces of the human soul.