FIB Film Review: El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie

After escaping a Neo-Nazi compound and our screens, Jesse Pinkman returns in El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie.

Photo Credit: The Verge

September of 2013 holds a special place in many viewers’ hearts as it marked the end of our favourite cooking show. No, I’m not about to give a quick recap of MasterChef Australia’s fifth season – these cooks are a bit different. And six years after the finale, Vince Gilligan and Aaron Paul have teamed up to provide closure on the story of Breaking Bad’s, Jesse Pinkman, in El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie.

Now for those in the dark, AMC’s Breaking Bad followed the story of Walter White (Bryan Cranston), a chemistry teacher who partners up with small-time meth dealer, Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul), to fund his cancer treatment. In short, they begin making meth together and things go from funding bills to building an empire, with some really horrible side effects. While the season finale closed the chapter on Walter White, fans have been pleading for a definite ending to Heisenberg’s ‘sous-chef’. And after six years of fan theories, some familiar faces reappeared on Netflix last month. (Beware, there are major spoilers ahead!)

Source: AMC

The Plot

Jonathon Banks makes a return as the retired-cop slipping into the role of Mike Erhmantraut to kick-start the long-awaited Netflix special. The opening scene features a flashback of a conversation between Mike and Jesse on what the future may hold for them after the meth business. The strange dynamic that these two characters had during the show’s five year run shines through their conversation.

In a rare moment, Mike drops his famous focused demeanour and shares some of his desires with Jesse. However, before audiences can get comfortable and reminisce on their relationship, present day Jesse floods the screen (and speakers) as he escapes the neo-Nazi compound he was enslaved to.

The early transition between flashback and present-day sets the tone for the rest of the film as history fuels Jesse’s motives. Much of his physical and emotional scars are illustrated through his time as a neo-Nazi prisoner, with an emphasis on his interactions with Todd Alquist, played by Jesse Plemons.

Photo Credit: Pop Sugar

After an emotional interaction between Jesse and Skinny Pete (Charles Baker) that may or may not have jerked a tear, Jesse sets off on his quest to buy a dust filter for a Hoover Max Extract 60 Pressure Pro. In Breaking Bad terms, that’s code for ‘disappearing’ and starting a new life – exactly what his former partner, Walter, and lawyer, Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk), opted for.

Jesse begins reminiscing on a weekend spent with Todd and recalls a stash of money that had been hidden in his apartment. In this particular flashback, we see Todd let Jesse out of his ‘cage’ to help him with something. It’s here where we see the degrading torment Jesse has faced, bowing his head down before ToddTodd even decides to ‘fix up’ Jesse’s hair using none other than nature’s gel – saliva.

Photo Credit: Deadline

Now say what you want about the weight gain, Jesse Plemons does a great job of portraying an ignorant, yet cold individual – not even necessarily a ‘bad guy’. I mean think back to Breaking Bad when he justified how he shot Drew Sharp, a child.I saw a threat and I took care of it the only way that I could”.

Anyways, Jesse uses his recollection of memories in order to help fund his ‘disappearance’, and after he loots Todd’s apartment, he heads off to visit an old friend of a friend.

Robert Forster, who unfortunately passed soon after the release of the film, plays Ed, aka The Vacuum Guy and is paid a visit by now $248,200 richer Jesse. However, Ed is unwilling to help to Jesse unless he covers the payment for the first time they connected (Season 5, Episode 11). This results in Jesse venturing off to look for $1,800 and test his morality in the process.

The Critique

Although Aaron Paul does an amazing job of portraying Jesse as both an enslaved meth cook and a victim enslaved to his past, the plot of the movie felt a little redundant for my liking. A whole movie about Jesse’s quest for $1,800? Apart from the die-hards, most fans assumed he went on to disappear anyway after the finale.

The flashbacks were my favourite part of the film as I was always more interested to see what Jesse experienced as an enslaved cook. After all, there is a massive time jump in the final two episodes of the series.The flashbacks is also a testament to Gilligan’s attention to character development, giving us more insight into the warped brain of Todd and even some more light on the once strong bond between Jesse Walter.

Jesse’s longtime friends and dealing crew, Badger & Skinny Pete. Photo Credit: TV Insider

The acting from Paul and Plemons is next to unmatched and you may find yourself wondering why these two are even next to each other in pictures before you finally snap back into reality. Even the short cameos from Baker and Matthew Lee Jones (Badger) make us feel like we never left Albuquerque.

Speaking of cameos, viewers are treated to a special flashback as Walter White is revived for one last scene. Set during the time period of 4 Days Out (Season 2, Episode), the scene features a conversation regarding their most recent batch of meth. It’s here where we see the once healthy relationship between the two as Walt urges Jesse to pursue a college education – taking on the father-figure type role. However, the early signs of his sinister views become evident, saying to Jesse, “You’re really lucky, you know that? That you didn’t have to wait your whole life to do something special.” All while staring at the RV that brought Walter his first batch.

While some have said the film feels like an extended episode of Breaking Bad, I can’t seem to agree. There aren’t any major plot twists that the show was famous for and the plot is definitely not as intricate as its predecessor. Did we want it? Sure. Did we need it? If they ever wanted the fans to shut up, then I guess we did. With that being said, El Camino is a nice, optimistic addition to the otherwise dark and disturbing world of Breaking Bad.

Better Call Saul?

For fans that are looking for any Better Call Saul hints or Easter eggs, you may be in for a let down. As Vince has stated, El Camino is Jesse’s story and although the trailer has revealed some characters do return, most cameos remain short and succinct. Not to fear though as Season 5 of the Breaking Bad spin-off, created by Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould, is set to air in 2020.

And if you’re worried you may have forgotten some important details from Jesse’s time with Walter, there’s no need to panic as a quick recap is provided by Netflix prior to the start of the film.

Breaking Bad is available exclusively now on Netflix.

Let us know what you thought about El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie in the comments down below!