El Camino (2019)
Directed by Vince Gilligan
Starring Aaron Paul, Jonathan Banks & Jesse Plemons
By Tim Basaraba
The Streaming Wars are real. With Disney buying Hulu to run in parallel with their new Disney+ feed, Amazon continuing to buy up precious IP, and Apple jumping into the game, Nextflix had to make some big moves.
Getting prestigious director Alfonso Cuarón’s (Gravity, Children of Men) 2018 drama Roma was a major coup, as was landing an upcoming Scorsese film. Securing the feature length bookend to what may be the most beloved drama television series of all time, Vince Gilligan’s Breaking Bad, doesn’t hurt either.
Unfortunately, although visually striking and full of believable performances, as a stand alone film El Camino fails to entertain or showcase its protagonists’ story arcs in a way that a more competent film would.
As we follow Jesse, the series’ co-protagonist slash anti-hero to Bryan Cranston’s Walter White, through a series of real-time adventures and poignant flashbacks, a new narrative is captured with a slow burn, letting moments breathe and oddly meander. Flashbacks get to the point quickly, giving us insight into missing pieces from the series. As we view Jesse trying to escape the present, we are reminded of his past, his transgressions and the company he kept. (Even Badger and Skinny Pete make triumphant returns!)
Being six years since the show’s final episode, no matter how big of a fan, the viewer is left confused and somewhat bewildered. We care for Jesse Pinkman, but time has made us forget why and no amount of YouTube “catchup” can make the viewing experience authentic. If you have never seen an episode of Breaking Bad please don’t start with El Camino. In fact, like most things of their time, skip it all together and lament that you weren’t one of the cool kids that was along for the ride as it was happening.
Is El Camino enough to satisfy fans of Breaking Bad? Maybe. Can a 2-hour film based on a TV series compete with a “real” film? Not this time.
If Roma was an A and all the Adam Sandler Netflix films were D’s and F’s, then El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie is a solid C.