Directed By Vince Gilligan
Starring – Aaron Paul, Matt Jones, Jonathan Banks
The Plot – After escaping Jack and his dangerous gang, Jesse Pinkman (Paul) goes on the run from the police and tries to escape his own inner turmoil.
This film is currently not rated
– Complex shot composition. Almost immediately, we return to the familiarity of the Breaking Bad world, thanks in part to the immense depth deposited in a variety of unorthodox angles and vantage points captured to establish the essence of the mood properly. Gilligan instills a sense of consistency from the show that easily immerses us once more, and makes this feel like two extra episodes that were kept from the public. It helps that Vince is patient with his editing, choosing instead to brood over an object in focus almost to increasing uneasiness from within us, giving us a sense of the urgency in the air from its very birth. It’s difficult enough to pick up a story six years after you left off from it, but to articulate the style and conscience so seamlessly proves that this unfinished business was still brewing deep beneath Gilligan, and his visual presentation stands as a therapeutic response, like Jesse, to finally completing this maniacal world that he helped create.
– Chilling performance. Paul is easily at the forefront here, but it’s a group effort of characters and personalities that we’ve grown with that do their parts to flesh out this compelling narrative. This movie has no shortage of cameo’s big and small from the television show, and while a couple feel like fan service deposits for how they are injected into the narrative, none of their scenes leave minimal impact on the direction and choices that Jesse makes on his road to redemption. Speaking of Jesse, Aaron Paul once more captivates us with a chilling portrayal of frail psychosis that you can’t help but feel an endless amount of empathy for the decisions that have defined him. Paul says as much in a stare as he says in an enthralling release of built up anger, and it’s that unabashed focus for his facial resonations that the film leans so heavily on to tell the story and feelings where heavy exposition deposits usually do. Gilligan’s confidence in Paul as an actor has shown brightly from the evolution of the character, and this last step on the full-fledged transformation is one that showcases Jesse as being more ruthlessly avenging and fearless than ever before.
– Stinging score. I can’t commend Gilligan enough for bringing along composer Dave Porter back to the scene of the crime, where so many of his scintillating scores have helped ratchet the tension in scenes of suffocating anxiety, and “El Camino” is certainly no different. Dave time-and-time-again conjures up a minimal boil within the atmosphere that emits something terrifying is on the cusp of arrival, and by the time the conflict fully materializes, that light, easily ignorable simmer has grown to reach intoxicating levels of intensity that leaves the audience begging for closure. In fact, it’s his evolution over six years of audible storytelling that has produced this dark and extremely ominous bubble of tones that not only prove that so much unforgiving bad has materialized already, but that this cloud of consequences weighs so heavily over the well-being of its characters that anyone could become just another statistic within it.
– Continuity. While I do have one problem with the visual continuity of the film, which I will get to later, the believability from the place we last left off from is one that seamlessly immerses us once more, and establishes a great sense of continuation moving forward. For one, the make-up and prosthetics are used exceptionally as a familiar singularity to tell the difference between the past and present multiple story arcs that the film takes us through. Coming from someone so well versed in the Breaking Bad history, I can say that every scar and hairstyle measures up perfectly to where it was dropped, proving Gilligan’s attention to detail that often gets lost in translation with immediate sequels. In addition to this, the story itself realizes so much left unanswered within what we thought was a perfect series finale, producing a great deal of importance and justification for this movie’s inception. It proves that the show’s ending was anything but happy, and that Jesse’s consequences as a result of the many bad decisions made from him and Walter are only beginning.
– Psychological weight. It’s important to me that a film showcase the lasting effects of physical and psychological abuse that Jesse has endured with being held captive, but the way the film attacks it in a sense that it’s bringing all worlds of the past, present, and future together is one that I truly wasn’t expecting. Jesse not only feels disturbed in doing everyday things like taking a shower, but also embraces every relationship, good and bad, from the past that have rendered this shell of a man you see before you. In this sense, “El Camino” feels like the culmination of years of irresponsibility, some of which Jesse himself owns up and takes responsibility for, but all of which feel detrimental to who he has become. It’s important to distinguish that Jesse isn’t a full-on Heisbenberg here, but so far from the ambitious kid who accepted a deal based on its measured easiness, which eventually brought forth so much death and devastation for those encased in it.
– Pacing perfection. One complaint that Breaking Bad often got was its jarring pacing to storytelling that often had trouble advancing the narrative in a typical television style capacity. If this was a problem for you in the show, you will be equally disappointed by “El Camino”, as Gilligan and writers take their time riding out the speeds of life to produce materialization that is every bit true to its realism as it is rewarding to its patience. What’s important is that Gilligan isn’t shooting just anything (See Twin Peaks Season 3). He’s very much enveloping us in this ball of finely tuned atmospheric tension that bounces of the walls with increasing intensity, until we the audience are left screaming for resolution that comes with finely illustrated conflict. I’ve often heard that this movie feels like two episodes glued together to produce one big picture, and I agree and disagree with this sentiment. I agree because it intentionally does feel like an extension of the show, from the one-of-a-kind production that I mentioned above, to the episodic conflicts that wrap up in a finale sort of resolution. However, “El Camino” never halts its progress, nor does it add unnecessary speedbumps along the way. it very much remains focused on Jesse’s on-going narrative, all the while throwing in the occasional monkey wrench of spontaneity to tease the audience with some unforeseen adversity developing off screen. For two hours of streaming cinema, this is as good as it gets, and will stand as the measuring stick for other shows looking to do the same.
– Hardcore fan Easter eggs. Aside from “El Camino” being anything but a catering to new and inexperienced fans of the series, it conjures up no shortage of deep cut Easter Eggs not only from the Breaking Bad television series, but also in the Better Call Saul capacity to get anyone’s mind working overtime to spot the significance. This not only gives “El Camino” exceptional replay value to spot the many coincidences and elaboration that are easily skimmed over when you’re focused on one particular character during initial first watches, but also compliments the dedication by longtime fans in a way that still preserves an air of nuance to the world-building it perfected in so many hours of television. One such example deals with the number 1800, which plays more than one unnerving coincidence to Jesse’s road of fate. Very clever indeed.
– Closure. This is immensely important so that we don’t get one of these movies every year for the next decade. “El Camino” is a worthy epilogue to arguably one of the greatest television dramas of all time, giving air-tight finalization to the story and its many colorful characters who have found themselves left behind by an adrenaline-fueled finale that could be heard throughout the Albuquerque desert. It brings us a high-stakes denouement through the eyes of one of its originals, and gives us the most realistic satisfaction from the character than we could possibly imagine at this point. Nothing is stretched in logic, nor exceeded in expectation. In fact, there’s much to be argued that even what produces isn’t a complete happy ending to say the least, but it’s one that at least brings peace, to Jesse, to the show, and most importantly to those of us who were bothered with the ambiguity of driving off into the night.
– Actor aging. While a problem that many continuous sequels face, the advancement of de-aging technology in today’s filmmaking could’ve better suppressed the obviousness of some actors feeling the sting of years of aging playing heavily on the integrity of their preservation. This is mostly in the flashback sequences with Paul, but also exceptionally with Jesse Plemons ‘Todd’, who looks like he has put on about twenty pounds of weight somewhere in between this kidnapping arc with Jesse. It stands as the lone complaint that I had with the otherwise perfect continuity, and could’ve gone a long way in giving this movie a big screen presence with special effects that are often not a part of the Breaking Bad world.
– The title. Calling the movie “El Camino” is a bit lazy to me, mainly because the car plays such a minimal importance to the overall complexion of the story. For my money, I would’ve called this “Redemption” or “Denouement”, because it more than El Camino captures the complete picture of what Gilligan is trying to convey. I can understand keeping your product ambiguous with the marketing and just how little you reveal about yourself, but I feel like the two titles that I recommended before preserve this quality to the film, all the while illustrating a memorably big working title for everything encased inside. Titles are a part of the movie, so yes, even that is always graded for this critic.
My Grade: 8/10 or B+