Breaking Bad is the greatest show of all time in my opinion. The closest TV has ever come to reaching those heights is Game of Thrones but what Breaking Bad did much better is stick the landing. In fact, it’s widely regarded as one of the shows that ended perfectly. What Vince Gilligan, Bryan Cranston, Aaron Paul and the rest of the cast and crew achieved will go down in history. Normally when a sequel is announced to something that ended so perfectly I’d be outraged. Why ruin one of the few great TV endings? But Vince Gilligan is yet to do something in this universe that is bad (Better Call Saul is also awesome!), so naturally he earned the benefit of the doubt and I was optimistic about El Camino.
Does this Jesse Pinkman feature need to exist? No. Some may even say that it ruins the open ended nature of Jesse escaping Jack and his crew after Walter saves him. Even though it didn’t feel necessary, it’s something I as a Breaking Bad fan never knew I needed. It gives closure to the Jesse Pinkman character and feels like an epilogue to the series.
El Camino felt more like two episodes of Breaking Bad than a feature length film. There is a plot but it is very surface level and chooses instead to focus on Jesse’s character and what he does in the aftermath of Breaking Bad. Most of the aspects that worked so well in Breaking Bad are present here. Marshall Adams returns as cinematographer and the film looks gorgeous. There are several incredibly beautiful landscape shots and the close ups and subtle shaky cams give the film a more personal feel. It also has those wild sequences reminiscent of Breaking Bad when they have a bird’s eye shot of a house with multiple Jesse Pinkmans trying to find something. Furthermore, the score and music choices are as perfect as they were in Felina. Vince Gilligan always finds a way to use music to capture the atmosphere and emotions the characters feel and that’s no different here.
Another reason the show worked so well was that dark humour that was worked in so seamlessly. In El Camino, so many moments that are funny feel natural to the film and never disrupt the emotional impact of the film. A lot of that goes down to Vince Gilligan’s direction and writing.
It also says something about Vince Gilligan as a writer that he manages to effortlessly work in flashbacks that include characters who died in continuity. Yet all the cameos never feel forced and actually serve a purpose and highlight the struggle Jesse has gone through over the last five seasons and the tragedy that his character’s story is. In particular, there is one diner scene that is absolutely tragic because of this reason. I do however feel that some of the new characters felt like obstacles rather than actual characters because there isn’t enough focus on them.
But the movie is supposed to be focused on Jesse and the highlight of the movie is Aaron Paul’s moving performance as the character. In my opinion, this is the best performance of 2019. He brings so much to the character and captures his more light side and the darker, more tragic side perfectly. There was so much subtlety in this performance. One scene stands out where he starts to break down because of the certain circumstances. Unlike a certain movie that came out last week, Gilligan and Paul don’t feel the need to explain what the character is feeling and just play into Aaron Paul’s talents and ability to express emotion.
Because of his powerful performance, the last 20 minutes end up being such a beautiful end to this story and Jesse Pinkman’s character. The movie doesn’t try to set up a spin-off series and instead opts for a definitive ending to this character that is incredibly emotionally satisfying. Even for those who don’t like the movie, I can’t see a world where a hardcore fan finishes the movie and thinks that ending was “just ok”. Definitely one of the stronger areas of the movie.
Overall, El Camino may not be a movie that needed to existence and does suffer slightly from a lack of development for the new characters that just makes them seem like obstacles rather than people. But regardless of its minor issues, it serves as a beautiful epilogue to the main series and is carried by fantastic writing and the best performance of 2019 so far by Aaron Paul.