El Camino:A Breaking Bad Movie – a review
Spoiler alert: I liked Breaking Bad.
No wait, I loved Breaking Bad.
Nah, still not right. I adored Breaking Bad.
Sorry, none of these are cutting it. I can't find the words to describe how I feel about what I consider to be the greatest tv show of all time.
Vince Gilligan has blessed us with a world of exquisite characters, who over time, have moved through the most heartbreaking narrative arcs, with incredibly explosive results.
When you feel like you know a tv character and you bleed with them, laugh and cry with them, cook meth with them – you know that writer and actor has truly combined to give us something unique. That magic was rife throughout the entire cast.
I have pretty much been on countdown for this movie since it was first rumoured years ago, and when it was confirmed in August 2019, to say I was excited is the biggest of understatements.
Jesse was bummed that Google Maps had sent him on the wrong track again. There's supposed to be a barbershop here...
Let me fill you in on the premise before I tell you whether I thought it was worth the wait...
El Camino picks up at literally the moment that Breaking Bad ended. A dishevelled, hysterical Jesse Pinkman, accelerating away from the Neo-Nazis who had captured and tortured him for so long.
And this becomes the reason for the film's existence. It answers the questions “What happened to Jesse Pinkman? Did he get caught? Did he escape to start a new life?”
Through a skilful use of flashback and present-time story-telling, we see Jesse in conversation with a number of characters familiar from the Breaking Bad universe. The film takes us first to Badger and Skinny P as Jesse reaches out to his closest friends. Then it explores an unseen adventure with Todd (Jesse Plemons) and a re-visit to Ed Galbraith, the Vaccuum Cleaner Guy with a sideline in new identities. There are some other very familiar cameos, but I promised no spoilers!
Jesse's biggest issue to overcome in the movie revolves around the Kandy Welding guy. A man familiar to him, but not to us Breaking Bad fans. He's a slimeball straight out of the fictional Albuquerque ecosystem though and it feels like he's been here all along.
He's the guy who built the cage in the white supremacist compound where Jesse was held for six months. He encounters him again searching Todd's apartment for money that he knew was stashed there, and later on back at Kandy Welding when Jesse goes there to ask for more money, with dramatic consequences.
Aaron Paul as Jesse, is, as he was throughout the entire series, exceptional. And it's a good job too. This is his film, his story. And he doesn't just carry the film, he raises it up onto his shoulders. He inhabits every atom of the character to the point where I have doubts whether Aaron Paul is a real person...
Tonally and visually, El Camino made me feel like Breaking Bad never really went away. The narrative twists and turns and occasional bursts of violence against the beautifully ordinary backdrops of residential suburbs and vaccuum repair stores, giving way to the driest New Mexico desert landscapes was all very familiar.
Almost too familiar. It was definitely a stand-alone story, but it felt very much like a double-length episode. While I was not once bored, and I enjoyed every second of being back in this world, with these people, I kind of shrugged my shoulders at the end, almost saying to myself, “ I wonder what will happen in the next one?”
I didn't expect El Camino to end when it did, and I was disappointed that its focus was as narrow as it was. I had hoped for an ending with more punch, but that's a small gripe. The film acts as a sweet addendum to the tv show.
Vince Gilligan saw this movie as his opportunity to tie up loose ends and provide some resolution to unanswered questions about Jesse's story arc. It does provide some of that. The film truly marks Jesse's ascension from Walter White's sidekick to badass hero of his own story, overcoming the odds and going it on his own in a new state.
For me, it really leaves the door ajar to answer a whole new set of questions, starting with what I imagine is going through Jesse's mind at the end of the movie: “What's next, bitch?”
If you enjoyed this post you might also like:
Seth Stanley's Movie Deaths Volume 1
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