El Camino colours the blanks of Jesse Pinkman’s story after the end of Breaking Bad, delivering a worthwhile if slightly safe resolution to an iconic character.
Before 2019, movie continuations of TV shows had earned a reliably dire reputation. Sex And The City, Entourage, and Mrs Brown’s Boys are among the worst offenders, overpowering exceptions to the rule like The Inbetweeners Movie or South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut.
This year represents somewhat of a changing tide. Downton Abbey has reigned at the box office and was positively received for capturing the show’s spirit, while Deadwood: The Movie met overwhelming praise (97 per cent on Rotten Tomatoes) for providing the satisfying conclusion it never had when the show abruptly ended in 2006.
El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie is arguably the riskiest of them all. The show, often ranked among the best ever created and one of the kickstarters for TV’s golden age, ended in 2013 with the rare fortune of a well-received climax. Creator Vince Gilligan even broke the second TV show curse by having a spin-off, Better Call Saul, which proved equally as exquisite.
So why come back after such a high? In returning to Breaking Bad’s world, El Camino wisely plays it safe to avoid rewriting its golden path. While it doesn’t feel entirely necessary, or match the show’s highest peaks, the film serves as a beautifully crafted epilogue to Jesse Pinkman’s (Aaron Paul) story.
Picking up directly after the season five finale, Jesse has escaped Jack’s neo-nazi compound after being enslaved and forced to cook crystal meth. With Walter White (Bryan Cranston) dead, police are hunting Jesse to tie up the remaining loose end of their fallen drug empire, leaving him to try and scramble for a fresh start against the law’s pursuit.
While we won’t spoil where Jesse ends up, El Camino sticks to this simple story in a surprisingly straight-forward way. There’s no twists or big reveals which majorly affect your understanding of what’s come before. In fact, flashback sequences serve little more than a chance to see key characters back on screen again, but the stellar execution from a writing and directing standpoint makes these scenes a joy to soak up.
El Camino also wisely doesn’t try to work as a standalone movie. This is a film designed as an epilogue tale to Breaking Bad, filling in the blanks for characters you’re familiar with while posing new questions for others who aren’t addressed. This might disappoint some looking for more substance, and there is a sense Vince Gilligan is hesitant to offer too much to avoid tampering with the past, but it works as a bonus, gratifying farewell.
As with the original show, this movie is a worthwhile trip for the production alone. Directed and written by Vince himself, El Camino is a constant visual treat of sprawling desert landscapes and imaginative camera work. Aaron Paul also naturally slots back into Jesse’s psyche, delivering a performance which taps into his past scars and tortured mindset effortlessly.
While movie versions of TV shows have a tendency to shoot bigger and louder, El Camino smartly does the opposite. This is a reflective and contemplative last bow for Jesse Pinkman who, after going through hell over the show’s course, is given a worthy send-off to satisfy those looking for another spin in Breaking Bad’s world. It might take few risks, but this is a skillfully-crafted victory lap for one of the best TV shows ever created.
El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie is available on Netflix now.
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