What’s the point?
I mean, other than making more money—what made Vince Gilligan want to, well, make this? Notoriously, he wanted Breaking Bad to end on a note that would cut out the need for a sequel. While the series didn’t need a sequel, if it was good enough, that doing one might be OK. Well…El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie is not good enough. In fact, it’s not good. If I can relate this movie to comics, this is the Doomsday Clock of cinema—a needless, at times fun, but overall saddening affair in terms of artistic integrity.
Without spoiling anything you wouldn’t know from the trailers or previously released information, we pick off where we left Jesse—driving away from captivity, howling to an indifferent world that, yeah, b---h, I’m free. Metaphorically, of course. The rest of the film sees Jesse scrambling to get out of dodge, punctuated by flashbacks, mostly of him in captivity to the neo-Nazi killers.
As for positives, the cast, and Aaron Paul specifically, kill it. Jesse has to be both traumatized and determined, and complex emotional cocktails are Paul’s specialty. While I understand films aren’t often shot chronologically, it almost feels as if El Camino was, since Gilligan seems to grow with filmmaking confidence as the movie progresses. While it starts with a washed-out, color-corrected aesthetic, the film soon makes us of shadows and the expansive yet claustrophobic ABQ locale. The editing and score are Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul levels of clever synchronicity.
Without giving away anything, this movie weirdly says, “um, actually, Jesse still has to go through some hell to try and *fully* leave.” Then how is his character arc continued? What more can be said? After seeing El Camino…not much. In fact, the callous way the film treats violence, one could say this is detrimental to Jesse’s arc and the message of Breaking Bad.
Another niggling problem is in regards to the neo-Nazis. Certainly, much of Jesse’s trauma going forward would be from their cruelty toward him. But wouldn’t a lot also be from Walter’s abuse? From Gus’s? Yet, Jesse’s flashbacks and brief spikes of PTSD come only from being locked up by Jesse Plemons’ Todd.
Those desperate for anything Breaking Bad after its perfect end in 2015 will get a mild kick out of the very fact they can watch more material. But El Camino is a weak-sauce addition that even detracts in certain elements to the beautiful, true ending of the OG series. Watch Better Call Saul instead.