Spoiler Warning for “Breaking Bad” and “El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie!”
The “Breaking Bad” series finale, entitled “Felina,” will go down in history as one of the most intense, breathtaking, and satisfying episodes of television of all time. The show’s daunting 5 season run concluded to such a fantastic degree that I don’t see any other show’s ending topping it.
However, there has been one question that has been plaguing fans for years in regards to this finale. What happened to Jesse Pinkman? “El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie,” seeks to answer this longing question, and it does so successfully! However, I still have one more question after finishing this film. What was the point of it all?
On the bright side, “El Camino” holds some incredible acting performances, some even being the best I have seen all year. Aaron Paul and his reprisal of Jesse Pinkman is nothing short of incredible. Paul is able to dive into this character so deep that I cannot see a single glimpse of Paul’s real-life personality or character. All I can see is Pinkman and Pinkman only.
Jesse Plemmons, reprising his role as Todd from the show, also provides what could be the best performance of his career. If you have seen the show, there is no need to go into how terrifyingly calm but murderous Todd can be. Plemmons somehow maintains this innocent tone throughout his screen time while committing these devious acts, providing a unique but wholly terrifying performance.
Additionally, the film contained some stunning and interesting cinematography, calling back to the impressive visual style of the show. Almost every shot through the two hour run time had me floored with their beauty, depth, and wackiness.
For example, there is this fantastic montage in the first act of the movie that sees Pinkman desperately searching through an abandoned apartment. Right before this montage concludes, the camera cuts to a birds-eye view of the apartment, showing multiple Pinkman’s in different rooms tearing the place apart to find what he needs to. Another filmmaker would have shown this montage in a bland and forgettable fashion. Still, director and creator of this universe, Vince Gilligan, really knows how to show conventional things in unconventional ways.
Now, as a huge “Breaking Bad” fan, I was expecting to have my socks blown to the moon with this film. Gilligan has never let me down with new productions set within this expansive universe in the past, so going into “El Camino,” I had huge expectations. With Pinkman’s story, this is where the film runs into some significant issues.
For one thing, the pacing in this film is horrible. Throughout the film, there are many crucial moments where Pinkman’s story post “Breaking Bad” is getting super intense or interesting, only to be interrupted by flashbacks that use up precious screen time in wasteful ways.
For example, the opening scene presenting Pinkman and the now-deceased character Mike Eaurmantraut just felt like a scene of unnecessary and out of place fan service for Mike fans and a weird placement of a flashback. Although this scene does set up Pinkman’s plans to run off to Alaska to start a new life, it almost feels as if Gilligan forgot the golden rule of showing but not telling.
This wasted screen time results in a very rushed and anti-climatic climax and ending. Both the climax and the actual ending of the film are executed very well, don’t get me wrong, but they just come and go way too quick to process what emotions should be experienced.
This is something very opposite of how “Breaking Bad” operates, as that show is the king of satisfying and well-paced conclusions, whether it be the end of an episode or season. When a “Breaking Bad” production like “El Camino” doesn’t follow this key reason as to what makes this universe so compelling, something has gone wrong.
On the contrary, the flashback scenes with the psychopathic Todd and Pinkman were some of the best and most memorable of the film, calling back to some significant Quentin Tarantino influence. These scenes are darkly funny, disturbing to the highest degree, and incredibly well written and acted.
However, the issue I have with this section of the film is that it is telling us things that “Breaking Bad” fans already know from the show. They know that Todd is a charming but murderous psychopath. They know that Todd psychologically and physically abused Pinkman as a meth slave. Instead of putting these scenes in the film to distract from Pinkman’s story, they should have been shortened, as amazing as they are.
In conclusion, “El Camino” brings back that “Breaking Bad” charm in full force with some excellent writing, cinematography, and performances. However, this film becomes wholly inconsistent with its pacing and overall story arch. In my honest opinion, if the film were a tad longer or had a little more time in the writing room, this would have been much better. Let’s hope Better Call Saul’s season 5 won’t fall into the deadly traps that made “El Camino” not so crystal-clear in its delivery.