“Yeah, bitch,” was the first thought I had when I heard they were making a “Breaking Bad” movie, entitled “El Camino.” A film that would serve as an epilogue to the show and give some much-needed final closure for Jesse.
The AMC show’s finale ended with many questions. Most importantly though, what happened to Jesse? We left him screaming in an El Camino, fleeing the climactic scene with his sanity barely intact. Everyone wanted to know: what happened to Jesse? Did he escape the cops? Is he languishing in jail? How did he survive both mentally and physically?
Thankfully writer/director Vince Gilligan does not disappoint, providing an epilogue that not only answers many questions but also satisfies on a very cathartic level. “El Camino” follows Jesse Pinkman’s (Aaron Paul) desperate fight to escape once again. He struggles to escape the city of Albuquerque but mostly himself. While this film’s central conceit is to give closure to Jesse, we also get to spend some quality time with Skinny Pete (Charles Baker) and Badger (Matt L. Jones). Skinny Pete himself delivers a poignant performance despite his limited screen time.
The rest of the story focuses on Jesse’s efforts to recover a stash of hidden money, putting him at odds with Neil (Kevin Rankin) and Casey (Scott MacArthur). It was wonderful to see MacArthur on screen again after “The Mick” was abruptly canceled after two seasons. He brings a low-key performance to “El Camino” that fits perfectly within the “Breaking Bad” world.
Flashbacks are used sparingly and feature a number of cameos but each one serves to remind you what Jesse has gone through and the people that have influenced him over the years. These cameos never feel like cheap attempts at nostalgia; rather they’re poignant recollections of a show most of us will never forget.
“El Camino” is also the final performance of the late Robert Forster. He delivers the effort of an actor who never gave up on their craft — rather someone devoted to finding something fresh with each new scene. I’ve always loved Forster’s subtle style. His best performances, like this one, are made of everything under the surface. It’s a talent that served him well from “Medium Cool” to “Jackie Brown.”
Gilligan put together a team of “Breaking Bad” all-stars to help ensure this movie fits the tone of the universe. From cinematographer Marshall Adams to editor Skip Macdonald, the entire team brought the same careful approach that they did with the show to the movie, and it pays off; no scene is wasted, no moment unearned.
It would be easy to dismiss this movie as a cheap, unnecessary cash-grab, but Aaron Paul makes it worth revisiting the world of “Breaking Bad.” Leaving Jesse behind must have been difficult, but inhabiting that role one more time must have equally been gut-wrenching. Paul easily takes on the part without missing a beat, serving up an incredibly memorable final epitaph for a character in desperate need of one.
All that said, this is truly for “Breaking Bad” die-hards only. Watching every episode of the original show is crucial to your enjoyment of this movie, although “Better Call Saul” is not referenced at all here.
“El Camino” is more than just a long “Breaking Bad” episode or string of familiar faces parading through the movie. Instead, it’s the perfect ending, erasing any ambiguity and giving Jesse not just narrative closure but emotional closure as well.
“El Camino” is streaming on Netflix.
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Featured image credit: Ben Rothstein/Netflix
Born with a VHS in his hand (“Care Bears” probably) Kyle has always loved movies. His interests range from pretentious art-house films like “Umbrellas of Cherbourg” to Jean-Claude Van Damme classics like “Double Impact.” When he isn’t writing he’s enjoying podcasts, craft beers and spending time with his beautiful wife. You can follow him on Twitter and Instagram.