El Camino cast: Aaron Paul, Charles Baker, Matt Jones, Jesse Plemons
El Camino director: Vince Gilligan
El Camino Rating: 4 stars
I was not wholly convinced of El Camino, the recently premiered Breaking Bad spinoff movie. There is always a fear that sequel movies to TV series might end up ruining the story altogether, especially when the show was so close to perfection.
Add to that, Breaking Bad was always about one man, well, breaking bad, so to speak. It always had Walter White at its core, and Jesse Pinkman, despite undergoing some excellent character development, always stayed in the shadow of his former Chemistry teacher. Can a movie that continues the tale of a secondary character from a show, no matter how successful, hold as much interest?
As we have seen with Better Call Saul, yes it can, when Vince Gilligan, one of the best storytellers alive on the planet right now, is involved.
El Camino is more than just an addendum to the main story. In terms of look and feel, it feels like a particularly eventful episode of the show. The cinematography is pretty, and we revisit the New Mexico desert in which some of the most pivotal moments of the show occurred.
It is a testament to Breaking Bad’s peerless world-building that everything is immediately familiar even though the show’s finale — Felina — aired six years ago.
Jesse Pinkman finds himself hunted by law enforcement for collaborating with “Heisenberg” after fleeing from the Neo-Nazi hideout. His name is all over the news and there aren’t many people left who he can trust. Here is where Skinny Pete and Badger and more figure in.
Several other known faces appear, including a few of the deceased ones in flashbacks. It is a bit like meeting old friends. None of them appear shoehorned. Everything fits together perfectly. Well, almost perfectly. There is a scene that seems to be included as a fan-service but this is not really a complaint, just something I did not expect.
Aaron Paul gives a brilliant, nuanced performance. He slips into the role as though he never left. There are several callbacks from his story from the series. Paul nails them all, emphasising how different a man he is from the moment Walt offered him a chance to cook meth with him in the pilot episode of the show.
El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie is a worthy edition in the Breaking Bad canon. It takes forward the story of a character who was the moral centre of the show — or at least one who passed for one — and completes his arc in a satisfying way.
El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie is streaming on Netflix.