El Camino, or the Legend of Jesse Pinkman, would’ve been an excellent title for this one.
CAST – Aaron Paul, Jesse Plemons, and the Late Robert Forster (RIP).
WRITTEN & DIRECTED by – Vince Gilligan
An outlaw on the run from his past. And the law looking for redemption trying to find a hidden treasure with nothing to lose and only chances to take. Somehow, the title, the trailer, and everything else about this movie made me realize something. It gave me a vibe that this is more than the slow burn, character drama that was Breaking Bad. But it’s actually more of a western. Not of the Sergio Leone kind; a bit more Coen Brothers and James Mangold. Yet, it still possessed that distinctive Vince Gilligan touch.
Sure, it may seem like a cash-grab to have spin-off movie based on a hugely successful and critically acclaimed TV series from 6 years ago. But Gilligan ensures it definitely doesn’t feel that way. Revisiting the morality bending world of Breaking Bad may feel like it takes a bit of remembering. It especially does if you haven’t watched the other TV series spin-off Better Call Saul, like me. But the script gets you into the thick of it quite quickly. It begins almost immediately after the series finale of the last episode. (there’s also a recap helps)
What I Enjoyed
What works for the movie, other than the grittiness of it, rugged yet mild humor tone of the performances. Jesse was always an interestingly conflicted character. He was often overshadowed by the towering presence of Bryan Cranston as Walter White. However, Aaron Paul really gets his chance in the spotlight here and doesn’t waste a second. He eases into his most recognizable role once again and is still able to add more layers to it. Jesse Plemons as Todd is, in my opinion, a very underrated performance of a friendly but cold sociopath. He is endearing and at the same time horrifying without having to resort to the sort of melodramatic antics scripts often give for such characters depth. He is a character who asks you if you would like some soup while a corpse is in his kitchen.
Some of the characters, or “villains” of this anti-hero story, are not memorable from the show and they aren’t in this movie. Their motivation and dynamic with Jesse, for me, wasn’t that interesting. That was the one major drawback I could find. But credit must go to Vince Gilligan for writing and directing these characters in his characteristically intense and realistic tone. An example would include spicing it up with dark humor and action.
Although I had loved Breaking Bad, I wasn’t always a big fan of its slow-paced storytelling. (if you’ve seen “The Fly” episode, I consider that one of the worst episodes in an otherwise fantastic series). Condensing a television series into a film usually doesn’t work. However, for this series, it works brilliantly because there’s only so many times we can watch Jesse gaze into the desert while the camera pans for 8 episodes.
The movie, however, keeps things moving. With excellently paced flashbacks, it offers a lot of connective tissue to the series and also places the viewer in the tortured mind of Jesse. It is a deep character dive with an often slithering pace. It still manages to have twists, chase scenes, a Western-like showdown, a character driving away from an explosion, and some pleasantly surprising fan service moments. At this point, I would love to actually see Gilligan make more movies (Netflix or otherwise) because he has a great eye for visuals and character development.
So while an El Camino movie wasn’t really “necessary”, it was a certainly distinct take and a great addition to the epic Breaking Bad legend. If you are a fan of Breaking Bad, then this poetic final ride is one worth taking.
(El Camino: A Breaking Bad movie is a Netflix original movie available only on Netflix)