El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie - Review

Breaking Bad is one of the greatest television shows of all time. The way it ended was brilliant, and perfect for Walter White's story. But one character never received the closure he deserved, and that was Aaron Paul's Jesse Pinkman. El Camino provides that closure, and serves as the perfect epilogue to Breaking Bad.

Prequels and sequels are tricky things, the stories never quite manage to capture the magic of the original. Series creator, showrunner, writer, and director, Vince Gilligan has been the exception to that rule since he launched a spectacular prequel in Better Call Saul. El Camino is just as good, though it does lack any sense of urgency.

The evolution of Jesse Pinkman was one of the strongest character arcs in Breaking Bad. Aaron Paul being able to give that character closure is a gift. The film doesn't pretend it's something it is not. It expects you to know the events of Breaking Bad. While someone could watch as self contained thing, El Camino rewards long time viewers of the franchise. 

The cameos and supporting roles from Breaking Bad characters all make sense and are not at all forced. Some are expected, while others are surprising. But they all add to the journey of Jesse Pinkman, which is the point of the film.

Happy endings are not plentiful in the Breaking Bad universe. Walter White didn't get one, and audiences know that Jimmy McGill, who later becomes Saul Goodman, isn't getting one either. But there was a chance for Jesse. El Camino offers that new chance, and by the end, audiences can make up their mind whether the character found peace or not.

Gilligan let emotion come through at nearly every turn. There is a somber vibe to El Camino, knowing what had just happened moments before this movie starts. But the tone and the pace don't match that of the stakes that were set up. It is a character journey film, and while there were a few tense moments in true Breaking Bad form, the film was quite relaxed for there being an international manhunt for the protagonist.

Paul has evolved as an actor. He grew with his character. 6 years after leaving Jesse Pinkman in the rearview mirror, Paul was able to revisit him and add some depth and nuance to what was once a very immature character.

The edit lends itself to protecting surprises. There is no opening title sequence or cast list. So you never know who or what will pop up after every cut. Gilligan does some retconning, but it still fits the narrative. None of it contradicts what happens in Breaking Bad, it just deepens the story and fills in some cracks.

For as much of a self contained story as Breaking Bad was, Gilligan has mined many other stories from it. El Camino was most important, giving Jesse Pinkman the proper send off. But it does make one wonder what other stories can be told within this universe. 

El Camino looks gorgeous. An aspect ratio fit for a movie theater really lends itself to a richer experience. Fans of Breaking Bad will enjoy the peek back into this universe. It does nothing to harm the ending or legacy of the original show. If it happens to not be for you, it can be ignored and it won't affect anything else in the franchise. It is a brilliant piece of work by Gilligan, and a great epilogue to a monumental television show. If the finale of Breaking Bad is Avengers: Endgame, then El Camino is Spider-Man: Far From Home: A definitive ending, with one more story to tie things up in a neat bow.

El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie is now streaming on Netflix.


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