MOVIE REVIEW: “El Camino” stars Aaron Paul (Need for Speed, The Path [TV series]), Charles Barker (The Neon Demon, The Blacklist [TV series]), Matt Jones (Brightburn, Home), Jesse Plemons (Black Mass, Battleship), Scott MacArthur (The Mick [TV series], The Righteous Gemstones [TV series]), Scott Shepherd (Bridge of Spies, Dark Phoenix), and Robert Forster (Olympus Has Fallen, Jackie Brown). It is written and directed by Vince Gilligan (Better Call Saul [TV series], Hancock). After the events of “Breaking Bad,” Jesse Pinkman (Paul) finds himself on the run from police. Now in an attempt to flee the state, Pinkman must do whatever he takes to rid himself of the past, acquire enough funds, and look to a new horizon.
When news dropped of an upcoming “Breaking Bad” film starring Aaron Paul, I thought it was too good to be true. Heck, how they were able to make it in such secrecy is unbelievable in and of itself. “Breaking Bad” changed the landscape of television, bringing together terrific writing and brilliant performances from lesser-known stars. Though I didn’t watch it when it aired, I did finish it up shortly after the finale premiered, and boy howdy hey did I love it. I mean, I still love it. The series is timeless and should be a strong example on how to write for TV. So, it only makes sense for me to be eager to watch “El Camino,” the surprising follow-up focusing on Jesse Pinkman, and just what happened to him as he sped away from his captivity. Many questions bounced around in my head leading up to its launch on Netflix. Where could Vince Gilligan possibly take this? Should he even touch his show again? Why dip back into a series that is so iconic, so spectacular, and so… perfect? Of course, Gilligan is flying in the danger zone; any mistake could cost him big time, being as how the fans of “Breaking Bad” think the show is fine the way he tied it up in the first place. However, everyone should rest easy: “El Camino” is a treat, and a proper send-off to the broken character that is Jesse Pinkman. Never did I think that the former druggie turned meth cook deserved a two-hour-long extension, but the most satisfying aspect of “El Camino” is how much there is left of Pinkman to tell. Obviously, he wouldn’t get away scot free. With everything Jesse has done, he has be locked up; there’s no rest for the wicked, even though the wicked is a good, scared guy. Towards the end of the series, the show focused primarily on Walter White (as it should) and his final stretch to get revenge. As a result, our closure with Jesse was simply a feeling. One brought on by his ecstatic, crying face as he drives away from imprisonment. It was a good, yet bitter feeling; one that sums up “El Camino” as well. We are given a look into how broken Jesse is as he seeks to flee from the police and find safe haven somewhere else. Old friends return, easter eggs are hidden, and many flashbacks are to be had. All of this is wrapped up in a nice theme of grief, discovery, and moving on. I was engaged. Gilligan is a master at dialogue as he is with direction. Not only was this a love letter to “Breaking Bad” fans, but just a solid piece of film in general. The cinematography is awesome, the score is solid, and the performances are fantastic. Aaron Paul delivers as Jesse. It’s almost like he never left. Everyone else who returned slipped into their roles with ease, and the newcomers (for what little there were) did a great job as well. Drama and comedy blended nicely, as I both laughed and was grief-stricken. If you’re expecting to get out of this one unscathed by bittersweet moments, you’re mistaken. There are seeds planted throughout this picture that really mold who Jesse was and what he has become, all of which points us in a direction that, while somewhat predictable, is poignant. The biggest feat Gilligan has pulled with this story is the intricate, flawless weaving of both past and present. It’s such a smooth film in pacing and I love the techniques they used to transition us from one point to the next. To be interested throughout the majority of the flick is a great thing, and often difficult to accomplish. Really, what you see is what you get. While I was weary that this could potentially simmer expectations, Gilligan and Paul delivered as best they could (which is pretty freaking good, if I might add). There’s only a few issues I see with it, some of which I found to be the majority of fans’ problems. The biggest one is how, while it is a film, “El Camino” seems to be more of an epilogue than anything. Jesse gets from point A to point B, and while the theme and character study is the most essential aspect of this feature, it doesn’t do much justice to what goes on in the present. I’m not saying we have to have action scenes, but we have an idea where Jesse is headed and he does exactly what we think he’ll do. Most of the fun is mainly found in the flashbacks and lessons learned from those. Don’t get me wrong with this critique, I still love the film and the present story elements, it’s just the bigger con out of the rest. The final bunch mainly fall into the nitpick category. While I loved to see some of the old cast return, there wasn’t as much work done to bring them close to the show’s timeline as I thought. All of Jesse’s make-up was great, but there’s a specific character in mind who could’ve gone the extra mile to have him look more like he did in the show (which isn’t an impossible thing). I won’t spoil who this is, in case you are wondering, but I will say it drew my attention more times than not. Besides all of this, I really enjoyed “El Camino.” Sure, it’s what we thought it would be, but man was it done well. And while I predicted a few things, I still was entertained by what I saw, and was even more so captivated by Paul’s performance and the study of Jesse Pinkman as a whole. Thank you Vince Gilligan for this treat, and if you love “Breaking Bad,” check it out. FINAL SCORE: 93%= Juicy Popcorn
Here is the trailer: