Vince Gilligan (director)
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment (studio)
122 min (length)
02 November 2020 (released)
14 November 2020
EL CAMINO - A BREAKING BAD MOVIE is the much delayed epilogue sequel to the award-winning cult series. Aaron Paul reprises his role as everyone’s favourite anti-hero Jesse Pinkman, with the film depicting the events following his lucky escape from the Aryan Brotherhood compound where he was held captive.
Coming up with a worthy sequel to BREAKING BAD’S final episode ‘Felina’ was never going to be an easy task… not only because we’re talking a six-year difference between that now legendary episode and EL CAMINO (first released on Netflix in 2019) but because most of the major players are dead, including Walter White. Well then, trust Vince Gilligan’s genius mind to cough up a concept that is worthy beginning to end!
And what ride it is! Beginning with a flashback scene during which Jesse Pinkman and private eye cum hitman Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks) are engaged in a deep discussion over potential places to escape to, Mike seems to favour Alaska as a place to start all over. It’s a suggestion that appeals to Jesse though Mike warns him that starting all over would exclude making amends for past wrongdoings. Then we’re in the present – that is to say the film continues where ‘Felina’ had ended: with Jesse’s escape from the Brotherhood compound massacre, fleeing in Todd Alquist’s El Camino Chevrolet while approaching police sirens can be heard in the background. Jesse’s first port of call is the Albuquerque home of his best mates Skinny Pete (Charles Baker) and Badger (Matt Jones). Upon opening the door Skinny doesn’t even recognise his pal at first, that’s how much of a mess Jesse looks following his torturous time in the compound. He doesn’t just look a mess but is also an utter psychological and emotional mess – a fact that shouldn’t come as a surprise given the living hell he’s been through. After a hot shower and much needed sleep it’s decided the incriminating El Camino needs to go and Jesse calls former acquaintance and local junkyard owner Old Joe (Larry Hankin) to carry out the deed. At first Joe agrees but changes his mind upon realising the El Camino in question is officially a stolen car which belonged to the psychopathic Todd. It can only be a matter of time before the cops arrive and Badger and Skinny, after giving Jesse the money they got from Walt White, come up with a plan which sees them swapping their vehicles. Part of the plan is fooling the cops into thinking that Jesse fled across the Mexican border. In fact, Jesse takes off in Badger’s Pontiac Fiero and heads into the opposite direction. Listening to the news in the car radio Jesse learns that Walter White and the compound clan got killed in the bloody shoot-out.
The film then goes into flashback mode again in which psycho-killer Todd takes Jesse from his hellhole to Todd’s flash apartment where he offers him soup and beer. Of course, there’s a hidden agenda to Todd’s apparently human gesture… poor Jesse is supposed to help him getting rid of the unfortunate cleaning lady which Todd had to kill after she’d accidentally discovered the stolen money in his flat. Now she’s rolled into a carpet like a sausage roll and out she goes the window though Todd, twisted as he is, insists on burying her in a particularly breath-taking spot in the New Mexican desert because “She really was a nice lady and a nice burial is the least she deserves”. No prices for guessing the grim task of digging the makeshift grave falls to Jesse! Just how twisted Todd Alquist (Jesse Plemons) really is (Jesse killed him in the final Breaking Bad episode, remember), well, that’s further emphasized by his vast collection of kitschy snow globes on the one side and his pet tarantula (the one he took with him after cold-heartedly killing the boy in the ‘Dead Freight’ BB episode) on the other.
Back in the present, Jesse successfully breaks into Todd’s apartment which has been sealed off be the cops following the deadly shootout at the compound. Literally turning the place upside down he finally finds Todd’s stolen money hidden in a very unlikely spot but as he’s about to make off with the loot two police officers, Casey (Scott Shepherd) and Neil Kandy (Scott MacArthur), arrive. It quickly becomes apparent the two men are fake cops, in fact they are unscrupulous thugs who also hope to find the stolen money. What’s more, Jesse recognises one of his captors in Neil. After a tense spout of negotiations combined with deadly threats the three men initially part ways – each with their share of the money. However, Jesse knows full well he’s no longer safe in Albuquerque and thus pays ‘Disappearer’ cum vacuum cleaner salesman Ed Galbraith (Robert Forster in his last role) a visit to help him with, well, disappearing… preferably to Alaska. Unfortunately, due to a large sum of money which Jesse still owes Ed from a previous occasion which he failed to honour, the money he offers Ed now is nowhere near enough for him to lift as much as a finger for Jesse. Thanks to these unexpected circumstances Jesse sees himself forced to break bad one last time if he wants to reach Alaska… which he does but we won’t give away the grandiose finale. Let’s just say that Walter White (Bryan Cranston) and the ghost of Jesse’s great love Jane Margolis (Krysten Ritter) all appear for one last time to give him well meant words of advise.
Although EL CAMINO is decidedly more serious in tone (no black humour intervals here except the usual Skinny Pete and Badger shenanigans) it works perfectly because it is the only way to portray the tortured and tormented Jesse Pinkman character following his ordeal in the final BB episodes. In a way, EL CAMINO is also a ‘coming of age’ movie with Jesse changing from puppy-eyed and self-confessed dope-fiend into someone who needs to grow up fast (learning his lessons the hard way in the process) if he wants to survive in this tough-as-nails world. And yes, it is very much Aaron Paul’s movie who really excels in a multi-layered performance. Will there be a follow-up to El Camino? Who knows, though it would be interesting to see what Jesse is up to in the icy extremity that is Alaska.
EL CAMINO is available as Blu-ray and on DVD. Bonus Features include audio commentary and ‘Making of’ featurette.