It’s been 6 years since “Breaking Bad” ran its last episode and Walter White’s arc from cancer-ridden chemistry teacher to meth cook and drug kingpin came to a close. Rumors have been swirling about an Aaron Paul-led movie, showing what happened to his character, Jesse Pinkman, after he drove off in an El Camino in the final minutes of the series. It seemed almost out of nowhere when the film was officially announced in late August of 2019, slating a Netflix release of Oct. 11. It seemed almost too good to be true that the head creative behind one of the best shows ever made would return to fill in some of the gaps for a beloved character. “El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie” is a cathartic, powerful character study with a powerhouse performance from Aaron Paul. Fair warning that this review won’t contain spoilers for “El Camino,” but will include spoilers for “Breaking Bad.”
Getting to see Aaron Paul fall back into his wheelhouse playing Jesse Pinkman is an absolute dream, especially because Paul has been M.I.A. from the big screen since “Breaking Bad” concluded. His performance is so damaged and broken to an extent I didn’t expect. I knew Aaron Paul was talented, but this is totally the opposite of the spectrum to the loud and vulgar Jesse Pinkman prior to being held captive as a meth-cooking slave. Jesse has been through the wringer and Paul’s performance subtly captures every emotion someone in Jesse’s situation may be feeling. There is one scene early in the film where Jesse visits old friends after his escape where Paul seems like a veteran with PTSD. His friends are trying to talk him down and take care of him, but Paul has this thousand-yard stare that is haunting and heartbreaking all at once. If the field wasn’t already so packed, I would say Aaron Paul deserves an Oscar, at the very least a nomination.
The movie is beautifully shot with the Albuquerque vistas and long stretching road looking as barren and empty as ever, immediately reintroducing the “Breaking Bad” world back to the viewer. The film is available to stream on Netflix right now but watching this one on your phone or laptop would be doing the movie a disservice. Watch this on the biggest T.V. that you have readily available. I was lucky enough to see “El Camino” in a theater and it is mesmerizing to see the style of someone who has worked in television on the big screen. The film also incorporates moments of fan service as effectively as it can, using other characters and easter eggs from the series to boost the impact of this story. These moments help you understand Jesse’s character more, while also tying up a loose end from the series.
If I were to describe “El Camino” in one word, it would be “cathartic.” It isn’t overly eventful like “Breaking Bad” was in its prime, but more emotionally focused on its lead character and his struggle to finally break away from the life he created for himself. Nothing series-shattering happens in the film, which allows the film to serve as a vessel for the viewer to inhabit the “Breaking Bad” world for Jesse Pinkman’s swan song. The film itself is very inconsequential, so if you finished “Breaking Bad” and you are happy with the way it ended, you don’t even have to watch “El Camino.” It is the perfect epilogue that isn’t even necessary. That being said, my issue with the film is that it takes a long time to find its footing and can be a slow burn at times. It lacks a sense of direction until a moment about halfway through the movie when Jesse encounters two people from his past. From there, the true story starts to take shape and “El Camino” is a blast from thereon out. I loved watching this movie on my first viewing and only found these issues when revisiting it. “El Camino” still certainly gets a glowing recommendation from me.
Grade For A Breaking Bad Fan: A