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El Camino is a feature-length film that takes place following the series finale of Breaking Bad. Often regarded as one of the best television series of all time, the show followed the exploits of Walter White (Bryan Cranston) and Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul), an unlikely duo who cook high-quality meth in New Mexico. Breaking Bad ended nearly six years ago, and now show creator and writer Vince Gilligan is back to deliver an epilogue of sorts. Apart from its direct ties to Breaking Bad, is El Camino worth getting excited over? Let’s see if this Breaking Bad epilogue provides more closure, or simply opens up an unneeded can of worms.
Note: This review will contain some spoilers for Breaking Bad, but no spoilers for El Camino.
El Camino picks up directly after the series finale of Breaking Bad. Jesse, who has been imprisoned by a group of unruly thugs and forced to cook meth for his survival, ends up fleeing his captors in a shiny black El Camino. With the police bearing down on his location, Jesse must find a way to evade capture and figure out his life moving forward. Much like Breaking Bad, El Camino is rich with character development, intense scenes of suspense, and some admittedly dark themes. However, unlike Breaking Bad, the entire plot revolves around Jesse and his attempt to reach safety.
Without diving into spoilers, Jesse’s escapades fall in line with what we’ve come to expect from the Breaking Bad franchise. There’s intrigue, violence, emotion, and plenty of Vince Gilligan’s signature landscape shots. It’s a surprisingly beautiful and compelling story, that only falters from time to time. At its worst, the plot can be a bit meandering, but it never feels dull or lacks purpose. At no point during my viewing of El Camino did I feel like this movie was simply tacked-on as an afterthought. Instead, El Camino seems fully realized and a part of the original Breaking Bad tale.
El Camino‘s Ties to Breaking Bad
El Camino features many of the same characters from the original Breaking Bad show, and that’s mostly a good thing. Right from the start, you’re immediately shoved back into the often depressing world of Breaking Bad, with characters like Skinny Pete (Charles Baker) and others popping up throughout the story. It’s great to see these iconic characters returning to the screen, and it’s equally impressive to see their respective actors slide right back into character.
Unfortunately, without any sort of time jump within the narrative, the six-year gap between the end of Breaking Bad and the release of El Camino manifests in a few ways. A handful of actors have aged noticeably, which occasionally pulled me out of the experience. Aaron Paul still nails the role of Jesse, delivering a vulnerable yet capable criminal.
Unfortunately, in a few small flashback sequences, I found it hard to see Aaron Paul as the younger and more obnoxious Jesse. Besides this (and the obvious physical differences that six years can bring to some people), I found it generally easy to hop right back into the Breaking Bad world. This speaks volumes to Vince Gilligan’s fantastic directorial work, which wrapped me up in the experience just as much as Aaron Paul’s performance.
Should You Watch El Camino?
Simply put, El Camino is an excellent follow-up to one of the most popular and successful shows in television history. Fortunately, it’s got a quality narrative, excellent acting, and some effective emotional scenes. It’s great to see memorable characters return (if only for a scene or two), and it’s also nice to have some closure on Jesse Pinkman’s story. If you’re a huge fan of Breaking Bad, there’s really nothing to lose. You should definitely watch it.
However, if you’ve never seen Breaking Bad, El Camino probably won’t be that interesting for you. The movie doesn’t do a great job as a standalone viewing experience (which is fine), so if you’re thinking about watching it due to the buzz but you haven’t seen the full original television show, you’ll probably be a bit confused.
In all honesty, El Camino is around 2 hours of Jesse Pinkman trying to work himself out of a bad situation. For Breaking Bad fans, it’s ripe with callbacks and ties up several loose ends. For the casual viewer, it will probably be a somewhat boring crime thriller. That said, El Camino succeeds with a solid script, excellent acting, and beautiful cinematography. If you were wondering what happened to Jesse after that fateful night in Breaking Bad: Season 5, El Camino delivers a solid ending that will satisfy most Breaking Bad fans.
Rating: 3.5/5 Stars
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