While “El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie” does not stand on its own as a feature film, but it acts spectacularly as a reward for long-time fans who preferred the tone of the series’ earlier seasons.
The world of “Breaking Bad” is as dark and absurd in the film as it ever was. The audience is reminded at every opportunity of the quirky and endearing residents of the fictional Albuquerque, New Mexico, and their underlying ruthlessness. True to the series, crossing any ethical boundaries for money is the status quo here.
“El Camino” follows Aaron Paul’s Jesse Pinkman after the events of “Breaking Bad,” as he tries to escape from Albuquerque undetected. Fans of the show may have been content to believe he simply drove to Mexico, but the additional scenes provided by the movie allow him a more entertaining send-off. Nothing up to this point has gone the way he had intended, so why should his departure be the exception?
With Jesse’s arc having concluded over the course of the series, he does not receive significant character development during “El Camino,” nor is there a strong plot carrying viewers from one scene to another. However, most scenes are gripping in their own right, and it’s a lot of fun to watch the interactions unfold between characters.
Many fan-favorite characters from the original are reintroduced and further developed, most notably Jesse Plemons’ Todd Alquist and my favorite, Skinny Pete, played by Charles Baker. The most memorable cast members that couldn’t be gracefully included in “Better Call Saul” are all here. This level of coincidence may not be realistic, but it is consistent with the world in which it takes place; the film is aimed almost exclusively at an audience that has already watched Bryan Cranston rob a train with an electromagnet.
New antagonists are also introduced, and they would fit in well among the minor villains from the show’s original run. They lack the overpowering presence of the major characters, but they act as very entertaining obstacles to Jesse’s escape.
The dialogue and acting are interesting and convincing without exception. The lighting and cinematography have the consistent quality fans of the show have come to expect, which is well-above average for a television series.
Calling “El Camino” a movie does raise the standard quite a bit, however, and some small details become more noticeable. For instance, every floor in the movie is too clean, and the clutter is always concentrated around waist-level, even when it shouldn’t be. This did become distracting in a few scenes, such as when Jesse is ransacking Todd’s apartment for hidden money.
While the series finale felt very conclusive, the ending of “El Camino” does not feel like an ending at all. Combined with the lackluster plot, this has caused many viewers to reasonably question why the movie exists at all.
The real answer to this question, of course, is money, but that does not mean “El Camino” is an unwarranted piece of media. There were not many loose ends left to tie at the end of the series, and as such, the movie is not the conclusion the entire series led up to, but to a long-time fan of the show, it’s still quite good.