It has been six years since the hit show “Breaking Bad” concluded. Many regard the finale as one of best of all time, myself included.
But for as good as it was, there was always one question lingering: What happened to Jesse? The last time we see him in the finale he is busting through the fence of the Nazi compound in Todd’s El Camino, as a battered, broken man.
This lingering question finally has an answer.
“El Camino” is a “Breaking Bad” movie, released six years after the series conclusion. Its focus is on Jesse Pinkman and takes place directly after the events of the finale.
First thing’s first — if you have not seen the Breaking Bad series, I do not recommend watching “El Camino.”
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This movie feels more like a special episode than a separate movie. Writer and director Vince Gilligan made this movie for fans of the series. He doesn’t give much background about the characters we run into.
You are expected to remember the characters and events from the show. I appreciate Gilligan making this choice. The movie was able to focus on new circumstances rather than wasting time on exposition about the past.
Gilligan seamlessly includes flashbacks throughout the film, which was helpful for remembering some events. But this is not their purpose. Usually I am not a fan of flashbacks. They tend to be awkwardly inserted and detract from whatever tension the film has developed.
With that being said, I loved the use of flashbacks in “El Camino.” Some of my favorite scenes were flashbacks. I appreciated them in “El Camino” because they are used as character building moments for Jesse.
In almost every flashback, Jesse is talking with a familiar character, and by thinking back to those moments he is reflecting on the message of that conversation. The flashbacks are some of the most emotional scenes in the movie. They serve to build Jesse’s character rather than service the fans.
Aaron Paul as Jesse Pinkman is as great as ever — he doesn’t miss a beat. Paul was born for this role, just as Bryan Cranston was for Walter White. He does such a wonderful job of balancing a variety of emotions. For instance, when we see him in the car driving from the compound, he is no longer laughing, but screaming. He then sees the police heading toward the massacre from the finale and must scramble to find cover.
Like the series, “El Camino” does a fantastic job of building tension. Pinkman has the entire state of New Mexico looking for him, and his face is on every news network. From the start, the film establishes that just because he escaped, he is not in the clear.
He is on edge the entire movie, which makes it a blast to watch. This becomes clear in one scene when he is parked on the side of the road and a seemingly endless stream of police cars speed past him.
Like the series, the cinematography was incredible. Gilligan brilliantly uses light and dark to set the tone. Lighting is one aspect of film that is often overlooked, though it should not be, as it is one of the best nonverbal ways to instill feeling in the audience.
My favorite scene in the film is a flashback in a diner with one Walter White. The lighting was so unique in this scene, unlike any other scene in the movie — almost heaven-like. It fit perfectly, as the tone in this scene was dissimilar to the rest of the movie. It was a beautiful final moment between Walt and Jesse.
Throughout the movie, every time Jesse takes one step forward, he takes two back. Right when it looks like he is in the clear, another roadblock emerges. This constant back-and-forth was great for building tension, and it makes the ending all the better.
For as much as this film was a drama, it had its fair share of comedic moments. Skinny Pete and Badger returned with some comedic relief and endearing moments. Lou, the bored, lonely landlord at Todd’s apartment had some hilarious moments, including a scene where he says, “since I got the Brita, I find the tea tastes noticeably better.” And for as serious as he is, Jesse also has one or two funny moments.
All in all, I really enjoyed the film. My main issue was with the pacing. The first hour was quite slow. I found myself checking the time and was surprised that the movie was already halfway over since not much had really happened. This was due in part to a long flashback, which was necessary, but did not need to be as long as it was. The last act was nearly perfect — I just wish it didn’t take so long to get there.
If you have seen the “Breaking Bad” series, I highly recommend watching this film. If you have not seen the series, please, do yourself a favor and watch it. The “Continue Watching” button on Netflix will be the only decision you make for a few weeks.