Science is a thing of the past when it comes to Vince Gilligan’s highly anticipated and once extremely covert feature film, that ties up one major loose end of the critically-acclaimed Breaking Bad. That loose end with unfinished business is loveable bad boy and psychologically worn, Jesse Pinkman, whose future waved uncertainly in the wind of Albuquerque as he escaped his neo-nazi captivity by fleeing in an El Camino, all thanks to a reformed, Mr White. The titular vehicle acts as a passage between both of Gilligan’s creations and transports Pinkman into the spotlight to deliver a solid performance and a definitive end to his character and heartbreaking past.
Jesse’s final chapter picks up with his escape and drives straight towards a battle plan defined in the opening scene. A few tense altercations, money-grabbing pit-stops and appearances from familiar faces accelerates Jesse towards his endgame with sweaty but slick fashion. For a two hour feature-length film – compared to the drug-fuelled escapades that were packed into the series – not a whole lot happens in the present day, but a fair chunk exists within flashback featuring a sequence between psychopath Todd (Jesse Plemons) and Pinkman during his imprisonment. In terms of plot, the series of minimal events are well-structured with investable interest, emphasising Jesse’s inner turmoil and the lengths he’s willing to pursue to finally be free from the ties of his former life.
Heisenberg followers will rejoice at El Camino’s polished but gritty aesthetic that Breaking Bad excelled at throughout its five seasons, rolling like a stylish heist feature. An obsession for cash is still the primary game being played, but for opposing reasons to when Jesse was simply Walter White’s former pupil. The scattered flashbacks, one lengthy sequence in particular, allows us to better understand the manipulation and toy with freedom that Jesse had to suffer during his caged days. Despite being set directly after the events of the series finale, the characters that appear feel almost like cameo’s since so much time has passed, and it’s a nostalgic comfort to be once again encased by the deserted plains of New Mexico. Surprising moments transpire as somewhat predictable but are perfectly executed and in tangent with the racy pace whilst time runs out. Dave Porter’s score further links this stand-alone project to its predecessor through his Mexican notes composed with heart-racing beats fit for a fugitive.
Aaron Paul has spoken about his enthusiasm to return into the mind of Jesse Pinkman, to don the beanies once more to portray a satisfactory ending for the character and fans, which El Camino achieves with the greatest of respect. The six-year hiatus since the show’s conclusion is an undeniable factor that has to be taken into consideration when Paul is featured in flashbacks. Unfortunately, the difference in his appearance occasionally seems out of place, almost like a parody during one reminiscent moment in particular. Gilligan’s attraction to explore those unseen moments we missed out on from the series is justified and adds insight into Pinkman’s tragic experience, but perhaps he should have only featured the beardy recollections. This is not to say that Paul has changed significantly since his Bitchin’ days, but attempting to portray a fresh-faced version of yourself isn’t always photogenic.
One thing El Camino skillfully achieves is keeping within the Breaking Bad montage aided by Gilligan’s ambition to write and direct. A snappy recap supplied by Netflix as well as Aaron Paul’s rendition on Jimmy Kimmel Live! was a refreshing reminder to fans of the show who don’t partake in an annual viewing. It’s no spoiler that Robert Forster makes an appearance which demands more of your attention to savour his character after the news of the actor’s untimely passing. Gilligan and Paul’s intention was simple; create a canon future and put to bed any speculation that fans cooked up for themselves, bringing resolve and justice to a dear a legendary television character who will always be forever in our memes.
Directed by: Vince Gilligan
Written by: Vince Gilligan
Cast: Aaron Paul, Jonathan Banks, Matt Jones, Charles Baker, Jesse Plemons