Six years ago, we saw Heisenberg’s empirical meth reign come to an end in a hail of remote-controlled bullets.
If Walter White (Bryan Cranston) was a cipher for a humble man’s irrepressible seduction by immoral power, Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) was the audience surrogate – a vulnerable teen led astray into a life of endless, unwitting command.
We last saw Jesse hightailing into the dead of night – flying in the titular car, screaming, crying, near-feral in his escape from pain and slavery. El Camino chronicles what happens next: his body may be free, but his soul remains tortured.
Check out the trailer for El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie below:
Helmed by Vince Gilligan, the genius behind the Emmy-winning show, the film picks up immediately after the 2013 finale: with Jesse on the run after being held captive by Uncle Jack and his gang of sickeningly mediocre neo-Nazis.
The closing episodes are regarded as some of the finest television in history, bringing themes and threads full circle in often sad, yet blistering fashion. We witnessed the downfall of a teacher who, unequivocally, became the ruthless danger he claimed – but crucially, his ownership of that love affair with criminal royalty.
In that, Walter White can’t be pigeon-holed into your typical villain construct. He’s a monster, yes, but textured with complex, engrossing humanity. Jesse’s future, however, wasn’t clear: with his getaway from the compound, we entered uncharted territory. For once, he has no master.
Six years after bowing out, its legacy has dominated the pop culture lexicon – but El Camino isn’t a cheap addendum. It’s a full-throated epilogue, coupling wholehearted affection for an adored character with grand cinematic flair.
With only the neon glow of sirens polluting the hazy horizon, Jesse turns to old pals Skinny Pete (Charles Baker) and Badger (Matt Jones) for sanctuary.
In classic Gilligan style, their juvenile nattering cuts through the bleakness: we first catch up with them in the depths of gaming, with Badger telling his competitor: ‘You couldn’t even drive Miss Daisy.’
As the pair care for Jesse, leaving him be as he chows down on any and all grub, you can see the devastation in their eyes. Yet their unflappable tenderness is a rare glimmer of decency in a story so focused on human corruption.
The fugitive, on the other hand, is still chained to his demons. The most innocuous sensations – whether it be rushing water or the sight of mere blinds – are triggers for his PTSD. For the audience, this means flashbacks.
Often, when they are used in cinema they’re a cheap narrative device – as employed in It: Chapter Two – but in El Camino, they offer much-needed depth to Jesse’s former relationship with his captors, particularly the upbeat, uneasing Todd (Jesse Plemons).
Check out the teaser trailer for El Camino below:
This, of course, gives way to other key series cameos – we’ll remain tight-lipped on this one. While some feel more essential than others, they never feel like fan service. Rather, they’re in aid of the film’s mission: to offer Jesse, a character who too engaged in heinous acts, some sort of more spiritual redemption. ‘Only you can decide what’s best for you Jesse,’ one character tells him.
Gilligan strikes a somewhat masterful feel. Particularly with composer Dave Porter orchestrating the classic cacophony of grungy rhythms and pots-and-pans percussion (with the odd addition of an outside tune, such as Dr Hook’s Sharing The Night Together), it feels distinctly like Breaking Bad.
Marshall Adams’ cinematography takes the material to a higher plane, beyond the already ground-breaking visual style of the show: deafening, baron vistas; Albuquerque’s trademark low sun; stylish time-lapses of a city in motion; and an opening river shot that feels like pure poetry.
The fear was the whole thing would feel like a two-hour extended episode, but Gilligan writes it with an efficient, almost neo-Western structure, creates an intoxicating blend of the finale’s breathless propulsion with Ozymandias and Granite State‘s devastation.
Paul is magnificent – a fourth Emmy is surely in the pipeline. In returning to Jesse, you’d think he’d never left his side.
However, while he captures the same mixture of scrappy and earnest that made him so charming, gone is the galas swagger and ‘yeah, bitch’. That boy is behind him, a spectre of the man he’s become. After so long, seeing that change makes for an immensely affecting watch.
A poignant, edge-of-your-seat cinematic event – El Camino gives one of TV’s best characters the ‘Felina’ he deserves.
El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie is on Netflix now.
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After graduating from Glasgow Caledonian University with an NCTJ and BCTJ-accredited Multimedia Journalism degree, Cameron ventured into the world of print journalism at The National, while also working as a freelance film journalist on the side, becoming an accredited Rotten Tomatoes critic in the process. He’s now left his Scottish homelands and took up residence at UNILAD as a journalist.