Film Review – El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie (2019)

Breaking Bad first hit screens back in 2008, starring Bryan Cranston as the infamous drug lord Walter White in his tightey-Walter-whities. Serving as his partner was Walters ex-student partner Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul), who viewers instantly fell in love with by the first season. A decade later, and after five seasons of success, creator Vince Gilligan presents the Breaking Bad sequel we didn’t even know we needed.

The Breaking Bad finale was a little ambiguous, leaving audiences hanging in shock, awe and curiosity. Countless fan theories and video essays have explored the complex world of Breaking Bad, wondering what came after it and – most of all – what happened to Jesse? The trailer for Gilligan’s El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie was only released in late-August, but luckily for us the sequel is already available on Netflix. Will viewers finally have their questions answered?

Following the dramatic conclusion of what was voted the second-best TV show of all time (according to Empire), was the Breaking Bad spin-off Better Call Saul. It was a risky move trying to match up the success of Breaking Bad, but Gilligan gained the approval of even hardcore Breaking Bad fans. The fifth season of Better Call Saul – a prequel on Walters comical attorney Saul Goodman – is set to premiere in 2020, with hints that Walter and Jesse may appear as cameos. But it seems that wasn’t enough for Breaking Bad fans. Now we have: a movie.

Jesse takes the limelight as the new protagonist of El Camino. Shifting between time frames, we follow what happened to Jesse before, during and after his captivity, producing a more satisfactory conclusion to one of TVs most loved characters. There are a few things to keep in mind when watching El Camino. After all, the six-year hiatus between Breaking Bad and the movie may leave a few memory gaps. But these are crucial to understanding the non-chronological plot points.

Aaron Paul as Jesse Pinkman

El Camino preserves acute focus on Jesse’s aftermath, depicting the psychological effects of being held hostage. More minor characters, such as Skinny Pete, Badger and Todd Alquist, are also lent screen time. Their comebacks allow for excellent character development, as well as some classic fan service. Every performance is immaculately executed – even the smaller ones. Paul brilliantly portrays the emotional turbulence of Jesse’s trauma, yet still stays true to his amiable core. Often cited as the ‘moral compass’ of the show is Jesse, subverting initial expectations of simply being the dumb sidekick.

A drug-fueled, blood-spurting tale of violence and gang war screams action-packed adventure. However, El Camino takes a more muted approach to the life of crime and revenge. Much like its predecessor, El Camino pays more attention to the emotional drive of its characters than spectacle. Empty highways and sparse dialogue give El Camino the eerie, tense atmosphere Breaking Bad so perfectly encapsulated. Moments of violence, tenderness and even comedy dot the film with an essence of realism. But overall, it’s the plots gritty drama that keep viewers intoxicated over the shoot-outs.

The response to El Camino has been generally positive, applauding Gilligan’s stylish subtlety. The sequel takes the shape of an extended epilogue more than a stand-alone movie. It could even be considered the final Breaking Bad episode. Overall, El Camino is the punctuation mark to an unparalleled show of masterful film making. Although it may not answer every question fans have been begging for, Gilligan does give a satisfying close to a story that, in essence, can never truly end.