El Camino (A Breaking Bad Movie) Review

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SPOILERS FOR BREAKING BAD

6 years and 13 days.

“Breaking Bad” ended on Sep. 29, 2013, and since the finale of the show, rumors of a feature-length film have been floating around the fandom. But after six years, with hope starting to dwindle, “El Camino,” was officially announced on Aug. 24, 2019, and the Breaking Bad fandom was ecstatic. The first trailer, featuring Skinny Pete, started the hype train, and the different sneak-peeks, promos, and trailers released on the Netflix Youtube channel afterward only sped that train up. 

On the night of the release, fans stayed up until midnight to be the first to see it and were met with an extremely visually appealing film, performances we expected from the actors, but a lackluster story that still satisfies.

Photo Taken From El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie
The movie takes us to many new and returning locations from Breaking Bad. Something else returning from the original show is the magnificent cinematography, which is only elevated by Better Call Saul’s cinematographer Marshall Adams.

Let’s get the good stuff out of the way first.

This film has some of the best and most engaging cinematography I’ve ever seen. “Breaking Bad” and it’s spin-off “Better Call Saul” was always praised for its elegant camera work, and with Marshall Adams (cinematographer for “Better Call Saul”) returning for “El Camino,” we knew we were only getting the best. It’s very evident that with the bigger Hollywood budget, Adams was going to use every penny of it to make every shot look gorgeous, and he achieves this and more. One of the major differences is the switch from primarily 35mm film on ARRI cameras to a digital shooting format on an ARRI Alexa 65. Vince Gilligan, the director, states the change is to allow for the budget to go other places, but that doesn’t mean he’s cheaping out. The way Adams uses the camera is beyond creative and heightens every scene with beautifully framed shots and spectacular visual storytelling.

Another given was the acting. With returning performances from Aaron Paul (Jesse Pinkman), Charles Baker (Skinny Pete), Matt L. Jones (Badger), Jesse Plemons (Todd Alquist), and more new and returning actors that enter spoiler territory, it was clear to the audience that we could only expect the same level of performances as we got from “Breaking Bad.” The inclusion of Badger and Skinny Pete into the story was a necessary one, and their chemistry never fails to get a laugh. The first 20 minutes of the film was a delight to watch not only due to their comedy but also the emotional weight they can carry in some scenes. Jesse Plemons as Todd, minus a major difference in weight after six years, was as fantastic, terrifying and enjoyable as it was in the original show. “El Camino” saw the expansion of Todd, and not so much in an origin sense, but giving the viewer an even scarier look into his bipolar, sociopathic tendencies. Finally, with the film being about Jesse Pinkman’s story, Aaron Paul returns as the legendary meth slinging slave. Aaron Paul was known for some of his stellar performances in “Breaking Bad,” so we only expected the best. While Paul’s performance wasn’t bad in any sense of the word, I don’t think it came close to any of his best scenes from “Breaking Bad.” His performance fit the bill of what it needed to, but I was never moved by a specific scene.

Photo Taken From IMDb
After seeing Jesse ride away at the end of the Breaking Bad finale, fans have been begging to see the cast return to the screen. This new film, while unexpected, has been desired by the fandom for years, and after teases from Aaron Paul (Jesse Pinkman), it’s finally here.

Fans were spoiled for 5 seasons straight with the genius storytelling of Vince Gilligan, but comparatively, “El Camino” isn’t as strong. Now, with the hype so high and the bar set out of this world, Gilligan was in a tough spot with trying to please all audiences when coming up with an ending for one of the most beloved “Breaking Bad” characters. The story flowed well from start to finish, while creatively taking advantage of is the use of flashback sequences to help flesh out the plot and provide context for Jesse’s actions throughout the film. The lowest part of the film were the villains. “Breaking Bad” was chock full of amazing villains, from Tuco to Gus Fring to Heisenberg himself. The “villains” (more just roadblocks for Jesse) were interesting enough, and we buy why Jesse hates them, but there could have been more to connect. Gilligan attempts to tie them back into the original show, but it falls flat on execution. Despite that, the villains were still engaging, menacing, and felt like a real threat. 

“El Camino” is the once in a lifetime “next chapter” to one of the greatest characters from one of the greatest TV shows ever. Even if the story wasn’t the best, it was still highly engaging and entertaining, and accompanied by stunning visuals and great acting, “El Camino” is a very satisfying ending to Jesse Pinkman and “Breaking Bad” as a whole. El Camino is definitely worth the watch.

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