I was just starting to study filmmaking at university the moment that Breaking Bad became THE must-watch show at the time. Fun story, my lecturer was the one who got me into the show, originally to prove a point about something he’d show a clip from a film that proved it, the moment he watched Breaking Bad, every clip he showed to prove a point was from a Breaking Bad episode he had watched the night before. Anyways, from the moment I got a whiff of a potential Breaking Bad film, I instantly thought it would be some sort of closure film, and El Camino duly delivered and will reward fans for years of loyalty to the show.
I think it’s almost mythical how a show like Breaking Bad came from as little as 1 or 2 million viewers at the start to be one of the most recognizable shows in TV history. Which in part is due to some fantastic, equally recognizable characters. It’s the characters and writing what made the show successful and with other TV adaptations, they tend to lose the spark that made the show memorable. Not in El Camino. From style alone, you feel very comfortable, like the world you knew in Breaking Bad never went away. That’s all before you’re reintroduced to Jesse (Aaron Paul) on his redemption quest. Aaron Paul must know the character like the back of his hand because he carries on Jesse’s incredible arc over to El Camino with a stunning performance.
Something about the character of Jesse that I think Vince Gilligan did wonderfully is the effect of trauma. The film takes a lot of time to clarify Jesse’s torturous time under Todd (Jesse Plemons) who also appears in El Camino via various flashbacks. You see both the effects of physical and psychological torture Jesse had to endure which are difficult to watch. Essentially, Jesse is still chained up in his mind because of the trauma and El Camino is his story of him breaking free of those chains.
Going back to the style of this film, various stylistic choices seem odd for something as gritty as El Camino, but in the context of the show, it fits perfectly. For instance, there is a scene in which Jesse is searching for money in a house, but the camera is placed overhead with multiple Jesse’s searching through every room. We are also treated to regular shots of a time-lapsed Albuquerque which the very common goal of showing a passage of time shot with an abundance of beauty. I had to go back and watch some of the episodes to prove the point I’m about to make myself, but in terms of cinematographic perfection, El Camino tops all episodes.
What I loved about the series is how it utilized motifs and themes of western films to identify itself as a contemporary western. In El Camino, those motifs and themes could not come any clearer as one scene is a literal western standoff, shot with similar angles and similar tension.
Much like any film that comes from the same background as El Camino I always must ask if the medium of film right for it. The answer I came up with was a complicated one. Whilst I absolutely believe that a story like El Camino is perfect for film, I also think that it wouldn’t be damaged too much if this were a kind of spin-off or miniseries that can sit alongside Breaking Bad or Better Call Saul. You had the story of Walt in Breaking Bad and you could have chosen El Camino as passing on the torch series now following Jesse, and with a mini-series, you can devote more time to his redemption, create all-new interesting characters instead of bringing back older ones for the sake of nostalgia. Either way, I still maintain that turning this story into a film was a good choice.
What I felt could have been a better choice is the element of surprise. Although simple and effective, El Camino is also very predictable. However you think El Camino is going to play out or what “surprises” are in store, you’re probably right. There’s a sense of security that stays with the characters in El Camino, something they were without in Breaking Bad and we’re better without, it kept the show entertaining as well as unpredictable, anything could happen.
There’s no denying that Netflix gave new life to this fantastic series. The platform is all the better for it and we’ve had to battle with disappointing ending, dissatisfying endings to TV series all the time. This is why it’s so satisfying that El Camino can provide closure to Breaking Bad, if any more films and spin-off we’re to happen, I’s have to question it. It is finally time to say goodbye to the world of Breaking Bad and to be grateful that a high pedigree series can end on a satisfactory note.
Final Result: 8/10 – Very Good
Have you seen El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie? What did you think? Please let me know your thoughts and opinions in the comments below.
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