From almost out of nowhere a trailer for El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie was released in August, depicting the continuation of Jesse Pinkman’s (Aaron Paul) journey in the Breaking Bad universe. Filmed under a thick veil of secrecy, does El Camino add anything new to an already perfect ending to a perfect series?
Breaking Bad is not the first TV series to have a continuation through the medium of film, The X-Files, Firefly and Twin Peaks (to name a few) have all had film incarnations that contribute to their respective universes. These don’t always work as well as they should, with the transition to better cinematography/effects, feeling obligated as opposed to cohesive, whilst they also wholeheartedly rely on their loyal fanbase to know the lore beforehand. Unless you were hiding under a rock between 2008 and 2013, you will all be aware of Breaking Bad’s brilliance – if you are part of the minority, I urge you to make this your next series to binge. Following directly from the final episode ‘Felina’ we follow Pinkman as he attempts to evade the full force of the Albuquerque Police Force and start a new life. Part redemption, part revenge but mostly catharsis, El Camino (although not essential) is a mostly satisfying footnote to one of the series most beloved characters.
Aaron Paul brings one of his most mature and assured performances (this side of the TV series) and proves that he has the acting chops to make a seriously compelling lead actor. Despite being six years since he revisited the character he clearly understands Pinkman’s motivations and emotional beats – Paul pretty much picks up where he left off, looks included. I won’t spoil things for you but there are some recurring characters from the series that, despite them being welcome, feel more like fan-service than anything necessarily pivotal to El Camino’s story with the exception of Todd Alquist (Jesse Plemons) who is on fine psychological form. For me, this is (and should be) all about Pinkman, the character who grated on us in series one as the pseudo-urban gangster, and over the course of Breaking Bad’s run, melted our hearts as we watched Walter White (Bryan Cranston) mentally and physically break him down to the sombre, self-assured man we see in El Camino.
Vince Gilligan (series creator) returns to write and direct, showing a deft-hand at capturing the desolate New Mexico landscape and some innovative camera work when it comes to showing time-lapses – just in case you forgot that this is a film. Gilligan’s dialogue and scene structuring is as tense as ever, often resembling the tone and pace of a classic Western, but never reaches the dizzying heights of Breaking Bad’s more memorable moments. El Camino works best as an extended episode or an ‘event’ series rather than a film (despite having a limited theatrical run) and falls into the many trappings TV series face when transferring to film. Nowadays, as TV series can boast bigger productions, cinematic visuals and some of the best acting out there, the difference is minimal and less impactful when on film.
If you’ve never seen Breaking Bad, or have no intention to (shame on you), there is nothing El Camino has to offer you. El Camino relies upon your love for Pinkman and the ordeals he has suffered to reach this point in his character’s arc. It certainly works as a series epilogue, you just might find yourself asking, ‘Was it necessary?’