Title: El Camino
Release Date: Oct 11th, 2019
Studio: Render Farm Studios
Release Format: Netflix
Breaking Bad was the hit TV show that kept audiences captivated week after week. People would tune in every week to watch the misadventures of Walter White (played by Brian Cranston) and his lackey Jesse Pinkman (played by Aaron Paul). When the show started in 2008, it had almost a lighthearted feel to it when mild-mannered High School chemistry teacher Walter White got in way over his head when he tried to break into the New Mexico meth trade. The show quickly takes a dark route as Walter adopts his persona as Heisenburg and slowly gets driven insane by greed and paranoia. When the show came to a conclusion in 2013 it left people with a few questions about what would be the fate of who would become the most beloved character of the series, Jesse. El Camino came out to hopefully answer these questions and put to rest the fan theories and complaints that the fans of the series had to be asking. But does El Camino satisfy those questions? Or will it leave you wanting more?
Writer and Director for the show, Vince Gilligan, had a very specific visual style when it came to what he was putting to film. Each scene seemed specially crafted, every item put in the shot seemed to have some reason and some significance later in the show. He would masterfully craft the personality of every character by something as simple as the types of clothes they’d wear. The most famous and obvious example, when the show first starts Walter wears a lot of bright colors. As the show progresses and gets darker, Walter slowly goes insane and deeper into madness and greed, so too do the type of clothes he wears, when at first he’d be showcased in a lot of bright greens and whites, by the end of the series he’d succumbed to the Heisenburg persona and wore a lot of dark reds and black. The two Directors of El Camino do try to emulate this specific style, but like any reproduction, it feels cheaper and emptier. Not a lot of things happen in the background, one sequence stands out above the rest as Jesse tries to find money owed to him and tears apart an abandoned apartment. But outside that one sequence, I can tell the co-directors where fans of Gilligans style, but could not pull off the amount of depth it had on the show.
Not quality Blue Sky
Now we get to the part you’re all here for, is El Camino good? Short answer, kinda. It’s not that El Camino is a bad movie, it’s mostly dull with sudden bursts of suspense that made the original show so good. The biggest sin that El Camino commits, in my opinion, is that it is neither terrible nor good, it just kind of fills space and does nothing new to add to the story. It dedicated several sequences in the movie to just killing time, which is something that Breaking Bad never did. During the show, it seemed like every scene and every sequence had a purpose and there was very little if any wasted space or useless filler. Many people would argue that “The Fly” episode is just filler and I would have to argue that, but that’s another article for another time.
Even with the long-awaited reunion between Walter White and Jesse Pinkman in a flashback, it seems like El Camino is just obsessed with tying up every loose end and question people had about the end of the series, which I felt gave the last episode so much endurance. Did Jesse survive? Did he go back to his old ways or did he try to clean up his life and start anew? Not wanting to just leave everything alone, Vince Gilligan picked up his pen and decided to turn what should have been and what feels like two episodes of Breaking Bad into an over-hyped 2 hour and 2-minute movie.
Not to say there isn’t some good to come out of this movie, Aaron Paul is superb in his return role and when the movie wants to get off the couch and remember that it is a Breaking Bad movie and be tense, it can get tense. With a few twists and turns thrown in the mix, it does make for a worthwhile watch. But I would have a hard time recommending this to anyone outside the most hardcore bunch of fans. In between several tense moments, there are more slow, dull plodding ones. The flashback sequences offer answers to questions we never wanted to know and sometimes never cared for. The flashbacks feel like an excuse to say, “Hey, remember this character? Don’t mind the fact that he’s supposedly aged 6 years in a matter of moments.” That was another issue that broke my immersion on more than one occasion. The fact that this movie is supposed to take place moments after the 2013 finale and most people, with one, in particular, aging hard during that time.
A Gut Feeling
Before the fifth season of Breaking Bad aired, Vince Gilligan was offered a massive amount of $75 Million to make just three more episodes of Breaking Bad to tie up these loose ends. Gilligan declined, wanting to preserve his vision the way he wanted it to end. In my opinion, he should have stayed with his initial gut reaction. I am not in a position where I should underestimate the visionary talent of someone like Gilligan, especially after the TV series was quite literally one of the best things ever put on TV. But maybe, he should have gone with his gut on this one and stick with the same choices he made 6 years ago and just left it alone. I recommend El Camino but only to the most hardcore of the fans, everyone else might find it a little dull and that it adds absolutely nothing to the overall story that most of us have come to love.
What did you think of El Camino? Was there anything I missed? Let me know in the comments below!
- Strong performance by Aaron Paul
- Some tense moments
- Finally learning the end of Jesse Pinkman's story
- Slow, and plodding at points
- Unnecessary flashbacks
- Some clunky dialog