El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie (2019) Review

El Camino is a very unnecessary film. It is set after the end of Breaking Bad and more or less wraps up the character arc of Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) in a much longer-winded way than the actual finale of the show did. With that in mind, the only reason I can think of that this film was made was simply because the writers wanted too… And also probably because Breaking Bad is on Netflix, and making a Breaking Bad movie exclusive to that platform was probably quite appealing to the streaming service. But one way or the other, this movie doesn’t feel like it was made out of some corporate deal (even if it was), and genuinely seems to have some love behind it. Unnecessary? Yes. But if entertainment was only made for necessary purposes and without love, life would be boring.

The truth is El Camino is quite good. The story follows Jesse trying to gather enough money from his dead ex-captors (a white supremacy gang) so he can pay a guy called Ed to invent a new identity for him so he can escape the police. If you haven’t seen Breaking Bad that probably makes little sense to you. But that’s kind of the point; if you haven’t seen Breaking Bad the number one reason you shouldn’t see this film is because it wasn’t made for you, as quite a lot of the plot beats and character moments rely on your having seen the whole run, with flashback scenes to multiple different seasons of the show.

Another part of the show revolves around Jesse’s PTSD from his time being tortured and used in captivity by the gang. A lot of this film is flashbacks to his time with the man enslaving him, Todd (Jesse Plemons), who’s truly unfeeling and unnaturally calm domineer truly do feel haunting. Both Plemons and Paul, aside from both looking much older now, fit right back into their roles as though they’d never left them. My favourite scene in the film is a flashback where Jesse has a gun and a chance to kill and escape from Todd, but is so psychologically beaten down that Todd is able to calmly talk Jesse back into captivity without a hint of violence.

The film ends with Jesse getting Todd’s money from another gang in a gun duel. It’s a bit silly, a bit western, but it’s cool and fits within the occasionally tongue-in-cheek tone of the Breaking Bad universe. Jesse gets his money and goes to Alaska where he drives off into the sunset, just like in the end of Breaking Bad, having completed the same character arc as he did at the end of Season 5 of the show, but this time lands in a much more stable state-of-mind.

El Camino isn’t essential viewing, especially if you’re not a Breaking Bad fanatic, and is quite a bit slower than the show – perhaps because the writers were also making Better Call Saul at the time – which may throw off some people who expect this movie to pick up the same insane pace as the finale of Breaking Bad ended on. But it’s still good. And if you’ve ever got a spare moment or aren’t sure what you want to watch one evening, this might fill the void.

So yes, I would recommend El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie.

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