The Breaking Bad movie is now on Netflix, and here’s our review.
You could justify the existence of El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie based on the stunning cinematography alone. It is a beautiful film filled with shadowy rooms and sprawling desert landscapes, director Vince Gilligan’s camera steady and still.
The question of justifying its existence has buzzed around the pre-release of El Camino like an enthusiastic fly merrily disrupting production in a meth lab. The ending to Breaking Bad was just about perfect, so why would you add to it? How would you add to it? Isn’t it just going to ruin everything?
Writer/director Vince Gilligan had finally done to himself what he spent years doing to his creation, Breaking Bad protagonist Walter White. He’d placed himself in a seemingly inescapable situation, cornered and with no escape in sight, and he was surely done for.
The solution, it turns out, is remarkably simple. The movie just has to be good. The rest doesn’t matter. El Camino: A Breaking Bad Film is a brilliant, excruciatingly tense and exceptionally well written crime drama.
Picking up from Jesse Pinkman’s (Aaron Paul) escape at the end of the Breaking Bad finale, El Camino digs into Jesse’s attempt to evade the police following the violent showdown between Walter White and Uncle Jack’s band of racist meth dealers. Seemingly broken by the events of the TV series, explored using lengthy flashback sequences, Pinkman will have to do some rebuilding if he’s going to make it out of Albuquerque alive.
El Camino is a dangerous blonde away of full-on film noir. It hands its flawed protagonist a bag of money and the promise of a better future, then it puts the squeeze on him, real tight. This being a Breaking Bad follow on, it’s only right that there’s a good amount of western in there, too, with wretched hustlers and gunslingers out in the searing desert sun.
In El Camino, things go wrong. When Jesse is in a bind he will come up with a plan, and maybe that plan will work and maybe it won’t. When he needs a lucky break, maybe he’ll get one and maybe he won’t. Gilligan’s writing never feels stuffy or formulaic, rather the material feels like it’s been rigorously worked until it’s exact and true.
Gilligan uses parallels so well, both with the events of Breaking Bad and contained within the movie. Jesse’s fortitude is measured against his relationship with guns, for example, his mental state traceable against his behaviour during incidents with firearms throughout El Camino. It’s brilliant stuff.
The conflicts, whether they’re battles of will or striking flashes of messy violence, are honest and well-earned as they arise from great character writing. The dynamic between Jesse and Todd is re-examined and it remains incredibly compelling. It takes on the feel of an abusive relationship. All the relationships in El Camino are uncomfortable, ill-fitting and authentic. People behave illogically and unpredictably, but in a way that is recognisably very human.
The whole film, with its then-and-now structure, feels meticulous in design, the journey of the character pulling what it needs out of the story and placing it just where it needs to be.
We should talk about the timing of the story of El Camino. Set directly after Breaking Bad, which ended six years ago, and with flashbacks set further back during various points of the shows run, the cast don’t look the same.
I found myself buying into El Camino and willing to be complicit in its conceit. I would sooner make a mental concession than have to look at the weird de-aging technology utilised by blockbuster movies, at some expense, that, while heralded, this writer finds endlessly distracting and discomforting. It looks wrong. Others would likely disagree, of course, but I found the approach here unfussy and agreeable.
There is something really quite lovely about Aaron Paul getting to come back to the world of Breaking Bad and take centre stage in the absence of Bryan Cranston. He seizes the opportunity, delivering a performance worthy of Vince Gilligan’s marvellous script. There are wonderful performances throughout the film, including a standout turn from Scott MacArthur and a great showing from the late Robert Forster, who sadly passed away on the day of the film’s release.
It perhaps doesn’t match up to the very best moments from Breaking Bad, but El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie comes pretty damn close. Vince Gilligan and co have followed an ending that felt impossible to follow, and they have produced a truly brilliant crime drama.
Thank you for visiting! If you’d like to support our attempts to make a non-clickbaity movie website:
Buy our Film Stories and Film Stories Junior print magazines here.
Become a Patron here.
See one of our live shows, details here.