Full disclosure: I have yet to meet anyone who loves Breaking Bad more than I do. I was thrilled when El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie was released on Netflix this month, six years after the show’s finale. Yet while the movie is enjoyable overall, it is also underwhelming. Whilst die hard Breaking Bad fans will enjoy El Camino, no one else should bother watching.
The film follows Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) after the events of the Breaking Bad series finale. Having escaped the meth lab where he was held hostage, Jesse seeks a new life for himself in Alaska, despite being pursued by both criminals and the police.
Fans of Breaking Bad will appreciate that Jesse’s story arc has finally been brought to a satisfying close. The series left Jesse during his escape from his captors, leaving fans wondering where he would go next. Six years later, El Camino answered our questions.
Paul’s performance as Jesse is undoubtedly the best part of the movie. While I was initially skeptical about how Paul would fare returning to a character he last played when Obama was President, I was pleasantly surprised by his ability to capture Jesse’s emotional baggage and paranoia.
Whilst all serious Breaking Bad fans will appreciate El Camino, those who were particularly invested in Jesse’s arc will enjoy it the most. Fans will also appreciate cameos by familiar characters and references to events of the series.
Despite its merits, however, El Camino is not worth watching if you did not love Breaking Bad. What makes Breaking Bad one of the greatest TV shows of all time is its complexity — it is a family drama, a thriller and a character study, among other things. It manages to be all these things through its protagonist, Walter White (Bryan Cranston). Unfortunately, Walter only appears in one scene here.
As a result, the movie lacks its predecessor’s intricacy, and we are left with a fairly straightforward thriller. There is nothing inherently wrong with that, but it is a letdown compared to the brilliance of Breaking Bad. As a standalone film, El Camino will leave you underwhelmed. Simply put, Breaking Bad is a drama of Shakespearean proportions. El Camino just cannot reach those lofty heights.
Yet whilst it may fail to live up to the expectations set by Breaking Bad, El Camino is ultimately a satisfying epilogue to the series. It is better to think of El Camino as a coda to the show than as a standalone film. The perspective with which viewers approach the film may be the difference between gratification and disappointment. That being said, true fans of the show would be remiss not to see El Camino. It is a great “second finale” to one of the greatest TV series of all time.
Image credit: D.JANDYW.COM via Flickr