Watching: Terror on 18 Wheels

Two classic fast and furious features.

By The Watching Team

Dear Watchers,

We know your watching time is limited. And the amount of things available to watch … is not. Looking for a movie? Nearly any movie ever made? It’s probably streaming somewhere. That’s a lot of movies.

Below, we’re suggesting two of them, the latest of our weekly double-feature recommendations. We think the movies will pair well — with each other and with you.


Your weekly double feature: Terror on 18 wheels

Kurt Russell in a scene from the 1997 thriller “Breakdown.”Paramount Pictures

‘Breakdown’ and ‘Duel’

A man and his wife stall out on the freeway in the middle of a New Mexico desert. A trucker stops and offers to drive the wife to the nearest pay phone, about 20 miles down the road. The trucker never comes back.


The bare bones simplicity of that premise carries over into every aspect of the lean-and-mean 1997 thriller “Breakdown.” Leaving Hulu and Amazon Prime Video after January, the film shrewdly exploits the fear many urbanites have for untamed country, starring Kurt Russell and Kathleen Quinlan as a married couple en route from San Diego to Boston. Their conspicuously slick new Jeep Grand Cherokee wouldn’t seem like the type of car to crap out for no reason, but the two are happy to get help from a truck driver who’s a little too eager to lend a hand (J.T. Walsh, in a juicy final role). The wife’s subsequent disappearance sets off a search that inevitably escalates into a “Mad Max”-style demolition derby on the open road.

The ballet between cars and trucks in “Breakdown” recalls a similar pas de deux between an ordinary salesman (Dennis Weaver) and the mysterious occupant of a rusted-out tanker truck in “Duel” (1971), Steven Spielberg’s confident first studio feature as a director, originally released on TV. There are premonitions of “Jaws” in the way Spielberg turns this menacing, smoke-spewing tanker into a remorseless stalker, with the Mojave Desert turning into a kind of immense sea of dry land. Here those “lifeless eyes, black eyes, like a doll’s eyes” are called headlights. SCOTT TOBIAS

Stream “Breakdown” on Amazon Prime Video and Hulu. Rent it on Apple TV, Google Play, Vudu and YouTube.

Rent “Duel” on Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV, Google Play, Vudu and YouTube.


Critic’s Notebook

The Oscars Are a Mess. Let’s Make Them Messier.

Nothing has been normal about the last year, including the movies. The academy shouldn’t try to pretend otherwise. It should see this as an opportunity.

By A.O. Scott

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As More Deaf People Are Seen on TV, Others Want to Be Heard

Some deaf people identify with shows like “Deaf U.” For others, a deaf contestant on “The Bachelor” who doesn’t use sign language is a welcome change.

By Ilaria Parogni

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In ‘Losing Alice,’ Ayelet Zurer Burns It All Down

The Israeli-American actress discusses her new Apple TV+ thriller and the thin line between creativity and self-destruction.

By Jennifer Vineyard

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An Unlikely TV Star Who Knows What Britain Wants

Richard Osman’s TV shows and a best-selling novel are defiantly mainstream, and he is comfortable with how uncool that might make him.

By Alex Marshall

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The Musée d’Orsay and Stanley Kubrick: What ‘Lupin’ Is Made Of

The creator of this Netflix series shares the people, places, films and sounds that inspired him in crafting the heist show. At the top of the list: the star, Omar Sy.

By Elisabeth Vincentelli

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The First Oscar Ceremony Lasted 15 Minutes. What Happened?

There were no cameras or radio mics and just one speech. Even when it moved to TV, the show could be under two hours. When expectations set in, so did bloat.

By Jason Bailey

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