Breaking Bad was awesome, right?
One of the most well written and directed TV shows of the decade, Breaking Bad follows the descent of Walter White, an overqualified high school chemistry teacher, as he desperately attempts to earn enough money to pay for his chemotherapy and then for his family by cooking and selling meth.
He joins up with a former student, Jessie Pinkman, a cook and junkie, and the two go on whacky drug adventures… until the crippling reality of the drug trade sends them down a spiral of cruelty, greed, and evil that will consume their souls and damn them for their sins.
And just a few days ago, a movie tie-in and sequel, El-Camino, was released. It is said that sequels never hold up to the original, and they would be wrong. Like in online poker, this movie wasn’t just betting on the river. It knew what it was doing. Let’s break it down.
Now, obviously, beware of spoilers for Breaking Bad. And if you haven’t seen or haven’t finished Breaking Bad, then clear your schedule, watch the show through, and then watch El-Camino….now.
The Story till Now
The story of Breaking Bad wraps up with Jesse Pinkman being rescued from a compound of Neo-Nazis by Walter White, as a final act of mercy from the dying drug lord. Walter, who had shown up simply to tie up loose ends, discovers that Jesse had not been working with his former allies, but is instead their prisoner.
So Walter saves Jesse from the ensuing massacre that kills all the Neo-Nazis, and Jesse flees the scene, leaving an injured Walter to die alone.
What is “El-Camino”?
El Camino picks up right where Breaking Bad leaves off, with Jesse fleeing the scene of the massacre. And in no uncertain terms should you misunderstand that this is Jesse’s movie. This movie is the closure of his story-arc from the show and explores the aftermath of the show’s events through Jesse’s perspective.
Let me just say that, out of all the characters, Jesse has had it so bad. Every time he tried to leave the drug trade, Walter kept pushing him back in, both of his girlfriends get killed, he’s coerced into murder and conspiracy, plus he ends up in an underground dungeon for six months.
So if anyone deserves some closure, it was Jesse Pinkman, and El-Camino provides it.
Cinematography and Directing
On a technical level, this movie is superb. There are no huge, flashy, CG monsters, and it doesn’t need any. Through the use of cinematography, music, and superb acting, even the small scenes feel far more intense than some hyper-gory and loud horror movies.
El-Camino is a beautiful example of mixed pacing, where some scenes move slow and others move fast, without feeling all over the place.
This movie also is a master of the rule “Show-Don’t-Tell”. No character turns to another and says, “This guy is evil because he murders kittens and eats puppies”, rather you see why a said character is evil through their actions.
Acting and Writing
This movie would have lived or died on the quality of it’s acting and writing. Since the scale of the story is relatively small, there’s no immense action or spectacle to make up for poor writing. However, you needn’t worry.
Aaron Paul absolutely kills it in this movie, playing the broken Jesse in flashbacks, the traumatized Jesse of the present, and even gets a chance to return to the punk Jesse for one specific flashback. The writing for all the characters is top-notch, and we get to see Jessie Pinkman with all the knowledge and experience gained from Breaking Bad in full force.
9.5 / 10, and I don’t give this score lightly.
Let me just gush about the movie for a paragraph or two. It is phenomenal. There’s an argument to be made that this movie is unnecessary fan-service, but I think that would be a poor assessment of El Camino.
Sure, this movie does have fan service in it. There are flashbacks that hearken back to give fan-favorite characters some screen time, like Mike and Walter, but this movie never deviates from its core story, ie: Jesse’s story.
Every flashback, every scene, serves that purpose and pushes the story forward. Sure, Jesse successfully escaping to start a new life in Alaska is exactly the ending for the character many fans were hoping for, and that’s what we got.
There are no universe-shattering stakes, but there doesn’t need to be. If you’re invested in Jesse Pinkman’s character, then El-Camino is a must-see.