El Camino (2019)

*. Subtitled A Breaking Bad Movie. The producer thought it was a standalone movie (well, he would), but showrunner/writer/director Vince Gilligan thought he was making it for fans. I think Gilligan had it right.
*. It picks up directly where the series finale left off and I couldn’t imagine someone getting much out of it if they didn’t know all the back story and the various characters. Personally, I barely remembered the girlfriend (Jane) who reappears at the end. Didn’t she die in the third season? I thought it was pretty early in the show.
*. I loved Breaking Bad, thinking it was the best thing on television at the time, and I’m a big fan of a lot of the cable series that were contemporary with it. They set a new standard in television drama and long-form storytelling. But is this movie more than just a coda, and a not very necessary one at that? A farewell to Albuquerque and the gang of deceased and soon-to-be-deceased, loveable and not-so-loveable, rogues? Badger and Skinny Pete. Walter and Mike. The chilling psychopath Todd. But no Saul. He had his own show by now.

*. I don’t think it is much more than that long good-bye. And while it’s a nicer send-off than the show’s final episode (which I thought was awful), the dramatic highlights don’t measure up to any of the most memorable moments from the series. There’s a Western-style showdown which feels contrived and improbable. A dry negotiation between Jesse (Aaron Paul) and Ed (Robert Forster). And really that’s about it. Not much happens and there isn’t a lot of interesting interaction going on between the different characters.
*. While Aaron Paul is a decent actor, I’m not sure Jesse Pinkman is that interesting a character. He was basically Walter White’s sidekick in the series and while he travels a bit of an arc here it’s mostly what you’d expect. Meanwhile the story itself is quite downbeat and, as noted, it plays out as a long denouement.

*. One thing I do have to credit them for, or at least credit the producers of the DVD on, is the “super-commentary!” they put together. This isn’t the usual monologue by a director or writer. In fact Gilligan isn’t on it at all (he’s featured more in the “making of” documentary also included with the DVD). Instead you get insight from a line-up of not the usual suspects: wardrobe, make-up, gaffer, editor, co-supervising sound editor, special effects coordinator, prop master, sound mixer, key grip, casting directors . . . dozens of voices in all. Everyone takes turns talking a bit about what’s going on and they’re all in a good mood and enthusiastic because, let’s face it, this is their Super Bowl.
*. Along the way you learn lots of interesting things. Like when the prop master talks about the scene where Jesse consults a phone book. Apparently this was difficult because phone books aren’t that common anymore. In addition, all the names and numbers you see on screen, however briefly, have to be cleared for legal reasons. I like these bits of insight into the amount of work that goes into a production like this.

*. And it is a good-looking production. Gilligan has a real eye for expressive sets and settings and he gets to indulge that eye here in widescreen. It’s well written in the tense and dry style of the show. But at the end of the day there isn’t much of a story to tell, and nothing much to say. Fans were keen to know what happened to Jesse, and Gilligan winds that part of the story up, but that was really the only loose end. It’s more satisfying than the series finale, and much better than Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me as far as big-screen codas to popular television shows go. But it’s not a standalone feature and even plays more like an alternate ending or extended director’s cut to the series than a sequel. One for the fans, in other words, and I don’t think they have any cause to be upset.

12 thoughts on “El Camino (2019)

  1. fragglerocking

    Yep agree with all that, I loved Breaking Bad and this was the ending that should have been on the series. Great to see Mike again, he was my fave 🙂 I love ‘making ofs’ too and special features on stuff when I have a bluray/dvd.

    Reply
  2. Over-The-Shoulder

    Well, I disagree that ending of Breaking Bad was ‘awful’ – most of it was inevitable and felt like a pretty neat way to go. What didn’t you like?

    But yes, this was more tacked on, and while it isn’t bad, it’s nowhere near it’s predecessor’s standards – more just feel good filler. Really, I think the main reason for El Camino was so we could see Jesse and Walt again, meaning Better Call Saul could buy some more time before they – if they will – reintroduce them in that series (which will be interesting to see if they actually do).

    Funny you mentioned the commentary, because the Breaking Bad DVD commentary is brilliant – basically just Bob Odenkirk cracking jokes and the rest cast just having a great laugh.

    Reply
    1. Alex Good

      That business with the machine gun popping out of the trunk of the car at the end was ridiculous. I didn’t buy it for a second. Also the last bunch of bad guys were the least interesting in the series. Still a great show, and most series tend to jump the shark before they get that far. A lot of final seasons are pretty bad. I just didn’t like the final episode of BB.
      I haven’t listened to the BB commentaries yet. Was going to go back and give them a try after a while.

      Reply
      1. Over-The-Shoulder

        Fair enough. A finale is always difficult, so I think they did a decent job. Did you ever watch The Sopranos finale?
        Yeah – not sure how much you’d actually learn about the production, but it may be a laugh.

      2. Alex Good Post author

        I actually liked the Sopranos finale. Seems to have split people’s opinions pretty evenly but I thought it played well. Always a question when you’re doing something like that as to how much closure you want to go for. I thought they hit the right note.

      1. Bookstooge

        At least the shows I do watch are fluffy enough that it doesn’t matter if I pay attention or not 😀

        And if you’re stopping the book reviews, which usually tended to be shorter anyway, will the movie reviews stop? Or was it more that the reading would stop but the movie watching will continue?

      2. Alex Good Post author

        I’m sure I’ll take a break from movies sometime as well, but not for a while. I still have a backlog of notes to get through. Plus more Charlie Chan!

  3. Alex's Review Corner

    Yeah this film was an odd one for me. When I first watched it I remember thinking it was great but then forgot about it within five minutes up until you reminded me of it’s existence here. Despite having seen it, it still feels like I’m reading a review of a film I haven’t seen. Then again, while I did enjoy Breaking Bad, I was never a super fan (I’m a Better Call Saul guy myself), so maybe this movie just wasn’t geared towards me.

    Reply

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