El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie
El Camino just might be the movie that Breaking Bad die-hards have yammered for the past few years, but it’s bound to leave more casual fans a little unsatisfied.
If you recall, the television show ended six years ago with everyone’s favorite meth cook, Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul), breaking free from his captors and driving off in an El Camino (hence the title) to who knows what. The follow-up movie serves to not only fill in the gaps in his story, but also to look at where Jesse is headed next and whether or not he can survive long enough to get there.
After a brief recap of the end of the series, El Camino toggles back and forth between Jesse’s days being held hostage as a meth cook and the days following his escape. Smartly, he gives himself a haircut so that there’s no confusion about which scene belongs to which timeline. The settings and his broken emotional state are often repeated, but the reasons for each differ depending on what has happened before we see him. The effect of this time split, however, means that we know precisely how one of these tracts will end. We’ve already seen Jesse’s escape from captivity, but the second escape is not so certain.
As great as Paul is in the role, Jesse never quite rises to the necessary strata to carry an entire film. In all fairness, it’s quite possible that Walter White (Bryan Cranston) would suffer the same fate had his exploits been forced into the format of showing his past and his future in a cross-edited 122-minute block. The arguable strength of Breaking Bad is not the brevity of the shorter television episodes, but rather the exaggerated length of the entire television series. We got to see Walter play the long game with his life and we saw Jesse’s achingly slow swan dive into his own personal successions of Hell. Perhaps most satisfyingly, we got to know these men intimately and see their relationship twist and grow as their needs for one another took shape. The whole of El Camino is merely a plot device to show Jesse going from point A to B, and then to watch him strive for point C. The character arcs that defined him before are no longer the focus, which waters down the appeal.
This is not to say that El Camino is wholly without interest to fans. Seeing Badger and Skinny Pete (Matt Jones and Charles Baker) once again is a warm reminder that Jesse does still have friends in his crazy world. And the flashbacks to Walter and Jane (Krysten Ritter) are given their deserved emotion weight.
Spending a little more time with the beloved Jesse Pinkman is a welcome experience, but the lack of emotional rawness and character drive make it a less involving visit than I yearned for.