El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie (review)

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Netflix shocked the world when they announced they’d be releasing a Breaking Bad movie that follows Jesse (Aaron Paul) after he rides off in the El Camino. Many thought this was the perfect ending. His character endured much during the show and people were glad to see him supposedly win.

At the same time, others questioned if we had left the story incomplete. Are we sure Walter White died? How do we know Jesse really got away? What does getting away look like for him? All of these questions were answered and we got to see more of the Breaking Bad story from his perspective. This meant appearances by familiar faces, some welcome, some likely not so much.

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I liked it. They were able to tie up some loose ends and bring back that signature Breaking Bad style. I’d imagine most fans of the show were pleased, even if they weren’t blown away. It does nothing to take away from the show which was my main concern.

Style change

I’m going to do this review a bit differently. With El Camino being two hours long, it essentially ran the length of three episodes of the show. Following the three arc structure, that’s one episode per arc and the movie did break out this way pretty clearly for me.

El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie

Part 1: The escape

In section one we have the getaway. After an amazing refresher, which reminded me of some moments from the Breaking Bad finale that I had forgotten, we jump right in with Jesse as he’s speeding away. He’s feeling good but his escape wasn’t exactly simple. A few times he has to hide to ensure he isn’t caught and does so in intelligent ways. We can see how nervous he is and how broken he is.

El Camino does a great job of reminding us exactly what Jesse endured when he was held captive and forced to cook. They do this piece-by-piece and feed us parts that are relevant to what is happening at that point in the movie.

Once he clears the initial wave of police, Jesse needs a place to hide and perhaps rest for the night so this leads him to his boys Badger (Matt Jones) and Skinny Pete (Charles Baker.) This was a welcome reunion and gave us some of that nostalgia factor, the great character interactions, and gives these characters a nice sendoff as well. It was tough for us to see Jesse struggling the way he was and these two characters were able to show him the compassion we would have liked him to receive in that moment. Without this interaction Jesse suffers throughout most of the movie.

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Part 2: Get the money

The next move for Jesse is to secure funds for his escape. I don’t want to spoil too much but this is where we get an extended flashback and some added information about Jesse’s time being held hostage by Todd (Jesse Plemons) and his uncle. With this added context, we are then brought into one of those classic Breaking Bad scenes that I mentioned above.

Many may remember the episode that was spent simply on trying to kill a fly. I recall an episode with Mike spending maybe 15-20 minutes searching a car (that might have been Better Call Saul but you get the point.) Vince Gilligan finds a way to make great drama out of the mundane. He did that again here and even though you know how the scene is going to play out, the payoff is still there. You go on a journey with the character, you try to predict their next move and what the final solution will be and when you get it, it’s usually not something you thought of.

This section was great and what happens afterward is what really woke me up and got me to the edge of my seat.

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Section 3: The complications

Even when things go well they can’t go completely well, right? That is the case with El Camino also. Jesse is doing everything he should be but he catches a snag in his plan and has to compromise his way out of it. This compromise, however, causes a major issue in Jesse’s overall plan to secure his freedom.

This weekend we lost Robert Forster and I found this out before I watched the movie on Friday. It made me appreciate his appearance that much more. A true legend and a great appearance in this film. It made Jesse cross lines he did not plan to but allowed us to see just how desperate he was to secure his freedom.

I’ve said the least about this section because, in my opinion, it makes the movie. It played out like a season finale and gave us a final answer on what happened to Jesse. I’d rather you enjoy this section unsullied.

Overall

Through section one I wasn’t sure how I felt, through section two I at least had a smile, but section three really brought it home for me. The tension was great, the appearances from past characters were great, and the loose ends that were brought together added to the Breaking Bad canon and didn’t take away from it. We do get an answer on what happened to Walter White, and we do get to see Mike in this movie. Saul Goodman was mentioned but we don’t see him in the movie.

On twitter I compared El Camino to the bonus tracks on an album. They usually don’t add anything to the album but it’s nice to see what the artist had to cut out. I do not think another film of this nature is necessary but depending on its success, don’t be surprised if we see more.

-Bibs

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