Release: 2019 Director: Vince Gilligan
Sometimes there are stories that are never finished. While the tale surrounding the characters concludes and you are left satisfied with the ending due to a resolved arc or logical finish to an outstanding narrative, those characters are usually then presumed to have moved on from the events and thus you as an audience feel the same. That’s how myself, and many others, felt at the end of Breaking Bad. We had followed Walter White from his beginning as a cancer stricken chemistry teacher to his fall as a drug kingpin who has ruined countless lives on his quest to “provide” for his family through the creation and selling of meth. However while we left Breaking Bad knowing the full arc of Walter, we did not necessarily see the conclusion of Jesse, his partner who has no idea he was making himself one of the most wanted men in America and one of the best meth producers of all time. That is where we begin in El Camino, Jesse running away from the insanity of the life he is trying to leave behind.
I need to emphasis this right now, if you have not seen and/or completed Breaking Bad then don’t see El Camino. It is a direct continuation to the finale of the show, and the beginning is a recap of the major events of the show and then lead straight into the film. I have seen some suggest that El Camino stands as it’s own product and does not necessarily need the viewer to see the show, but that just isn’t true. El Camino relies on you to have seen the backstory to many of it’s characters to understand the struggles they have gone through.
To a seasoned Breaking Bad enthusiast, it can be hard to think of a more perfect ending to what the series already provided us. The show was about Walter White though, and what we got to see was the beginnings of his life as a chemistry teacher to his downfall as a drug kingpin. El Camino isn’t about Heisenburg, its about his right hand man. Jesse is one of the most complex and tragic characters ever put to the small screen, so actually seeing what he does after everything is over is something that while I never thought I needed to see, El Camino answers any lingering questions and does so very well. With incredible cinematography, a haunting yet fitting score and a cast of new and old faces, there is so much to this film that can be enjoyed.
I have to point out how amazing Aaron Paul is in this. It’s been six years since the last time we saw Jesse Pinkman and yet here it doesn’t seem like we left at all. Here, at the end of it all, he is a beaten and battered man. He just wants to run from it all, and understandably so. We get to see the parts of his life that were left out of the main series, what happened to him while he was in captivity and what he does now that he is free. His friends along the way, Badger (Matt Jones) and Skinny Pete (Charles Baker) and easy stand outs. They are still his friends, but were roped in to this world unwittingly. Seeing a final goodbye with them was yet another joy of this film that I wasn’t expecting. More characters we thought we wouldn’t get to see again give closure to us as an audience and is the greatest strength El Camino has to offer us.
I can praise this film for many things, but at the end I still have problems with it. It has an over-reliance on flashbacks to either events we already knew about or to what we never got to see. While I know Breaking Bad used many flashbacks of its own, there it could use them sparingly and give us pieces to the overall story. In this film, we only get the two hours to tell this story, and it feels as though half of it is just flashbacks. I wanted to see the last chapter of Jesse’s life, not going back and forth to what happened before and then to what he does after. Some are clearly necessary to explain the steps Jesse has to take to escape, but after the hour and a half mark I don’t want to see another look at what the drug cartel did to him, I know already that he escapes in the end. I want to see him get the clean slate. I believe that a half hour of flashbacks could have been cut and have the story be that much tighter and leaving us just as satisfied.
Finally, and this is more of a personal opinion than anything else and has to do with my previous point, it just is a tad too long. We know that Jesse is one hardened man at this point, so he doesn’t have that bubbly and curious personality that he carried throughout most of Breaking Bad. Nothing that could have been done at this point to change that, but it leaves the movie to be a real somber experience. Not entirely a bad thing, once you’ve seen an entire life go through what Jesse has, he isn’t going to be as optimistic anymore. For some, this is going to hit home as you say goodbye once again to an incredible character is many peoples favorite series. Coming back to this after so long, it can drag at times and then you have to sit through another flashback where really dark things happen.
El Camino is indeed a great movie. I don’t want to discourage anyone who has seen Breaking Bad to not see it. If you haven’t seen Breaking Bad…then go watch it. It still is one of the best shows of all time. El Camino is worthy of carrying the “A Breaking Bad movie” title on it, just maybe certain aspects can bring it down. It really teaches you to not trust your chemistry teachers, they might have you locked up by a messed up drug cartel and running for your life. Really a good message if you ask me.