Wednesday, October 16, 2019

El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie

By s. Wednesday, October 16, 2019 , , , , , , ,


6 years after the finale of Breaking Bad we got the sequel focusing on Jesse Pinkman. I was worried how it will turn out, given how perfect the last shot of Jesse in the series' finale was. A lot of people are complaining that El Camino wasn't necessary. No, it wasn't. But that didn't make it any less enjoyable.

At the end of the show we saw Jesse driving away. We knew the cops will follow him. But now we finally got closure. El Camino focuses on Jesse really starting over - getting the money to do that and the new identity that will allow him to start fresh. He also gets to say goodbye to his parents, leave the letter to Brock and see his friends one last time.
The film has a lot of tense moments but I was surprised how peaceful and toned down it was. Vince Gilligan could have bent over backwards to include the main characters from Breaking Bad in this movie - having Jesse meet with Walt's family, Marie or include flashbacks with Hank - but he didn't do that. As far as I can tell there are also no real links to the spin off show Better Call Saul. Gilligan did the more difficult thing and relied simply on the strength of  Jesse's character, Aaron Paul's performance and the writing to engage the viewer.

That's not to say there aren't many fan service moments and delightful surprises for the fans of the show - several characters from Breaking Bad make an appearance and we even get to see Walt again. I see some complaints about the flashback being unnecessary and maybe it was, but for me it was wonderful seeing Walt and Jesse getting along again - the scene was set right after they were trapped on the desert for few days. The most important thing about the flashback was Walt's line about Jesse being lucky that he didn't have to wait his whole life to do something special. We already knew that Walt's real drive for his criminal activities was his ego but that line only reinforces that. His main reason for breaking bad wasn't his family, it was him getting to do something he was good at and took pride in, no matter how terrible the consequences of that were.
By the end of the show Walt lost his good nature entirely but Jesse was always a good person and he remained that person in El Camino - he genuinely doesn't want to hurt good people but he was put through such hell you never know if he is about to reach his breaking point. There's an amazing moment when he is holding a gun to the head of someone who we and him think is a cop and he has tears in his eyes. Jesse is good, he doesn't want to kill anyone decent. But maybe he has had enough and the desire to flee, no matter what, will prevail and he will pull the trigger? He doesn't of course, because this is not who he is. The movie managed to stay true to the series and most importantly stay true to Jesse.

The film focuses on the relationship Jesse had with Jane in its ending, even having Jane deliver the final lines. That made sense to me, because while Jane did terrible things when she was using drugs, otherwise she was a good person who tried her best and Jesse was so happy with her. And it was not Jesse's fault she died, unlike with Andrea who got shot because Todd wanted to send Jesse a message. I thought focusing on Jane worked better, because the memory of Andrea would only bring feelings of guilt to Jesse and Gilligan was going for a happy ending here.

I really appreciated that the film didn't show in great detail Jesse's time in captivity. Jesse has suffered so much in the original series, we got what feels like countless scenes of him getting violently beaten up, it would honestly be obscene if most of this movie were the scenes of him suffering even more. They did a wonderful job of showing how broken Jesse was without making it too violent and explicit - one of the best scenes in the movie is when Jesse gives Todd his gun back. Jesse Plemmons again gives an absolutely chilling performance as Todd. The scenes in his apartment were like something from American Psycho, if Patrick Batman was a supporting character. And Matt Jones as Badger and Charles Baker as Skinny Pete did a great job, being friends to Jesse anyone would be lucky to have. It's also wonderful to see Robert Forster, in what is sadly his final role.

The film has the look of Breaking Bad and some of the greatest scene transitions I've seen in a very long time. There's a scene where Jesse is taking a shower in the present cutting to him being hosed down by his captors in the past that perfectly illustrates the trauma he endured and the effects it had on his mind. Then there are editing cuts that blur the present and the past so well, it actually takes you a moment to place when the events are taking place. That really keeps you on the edge of your seat and creates an atmosphere of mystery.

I am appalled by all the people complaining about the looks of the returning actors. People age and it has been 6 years since the show ended. Instead of being happy that they are getting a sequel to the beloved series written and directed by its original creator people whine about the actors looking different. Gilligan is visibly trying to hide that - blurring the image, shooting from the far etc. and honestly I wish he wasn't doing that at all because it was all those tricks that were distracting me, not the way the actors looked.

Gilligan said it best - "I’m hoping people will take it for what it is: something that’s meant to be a gift to the fans, and a gift to Aaron Paul, who I truly believe deserves many more movies where he’s the star. It was something done for the love of it, something that I hope people will enjoy and get some sort of deeper satisfaction from." Aaron Paul has already won three Emmys for his portrayal of Jesse Pinkman and I hope he wins another one for this movie. While the film has a lot of strengths, his performance is the best thing here, as is the character of Jesse, who was always the heart of this story, and while that heart is scarred and bleeding, the kindness inside of it remains. 85/100 (2019, 122 min)
Plot: After escaping Jack and his gang, Jesse Pinkman goes on the run from the police and tries to escape his own inner turmoil.
Director: Vince Gilligan
Writers: Vince Gilligan
Stars: Aaron Paul, Jonathan Banks, Matt Jones


  1. I hope Paul wins too. You and I didn't agree about the Jane thing. It was a weird choice to have Jesse write a letter to Andrea's son, yet be pondering about his other dead girlfriend. I feel at his point we should be moved on with Jane and it's Andrea he should've been thinking about. Her character really got the shaft here since she's not as popular of an actress as Ritter.

    1. I think the writers dropped the ball a bit with this,, Andrea and Jesse were never as crucial or memorable as Jane and Jesse and I thought Paul and Rytter had much better chemistry than him and the actress who played Andrea

  2. The only actor difference that distracted me was Jesse Plemons's. It didn't bother me because we are humans, it's been 6 years and we change, but it was just so weird seeing him like that.

    As for the flashbacks, they ruined the film for me. I loved the one with Walt and Jane's at the end had me in tears, but all that time with Todd, I don't know, it felt unnecessary and disrupted the pace.

    Great review! And I really hope Paul wins too because that was one hell of a performance. Should it be another Emmy or an Oscar though?

    1. I think he gained weight for Fargo or something and he just didn't lose it lol

      Apparently it's eligible for Emmys because it was only in cinemas for a week and Oscars need 2 weeks for that

  3. Fantastic review. When I clear my schedule, I’ll get to this film. Been looking forward to it.

  4. Now, I know everyone be like OMG HORRIBLE, but I haven't seen season 6 yet so... I'm skipping it. But I saw the Yummy rating and well, now I'm excited for it. :D