Movie Review: "El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie"
El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie
Walter White (Bryan Cranston) and Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) worked together cooking meth, which dominated the drug game in the area. Their time cooking meth sent them down a dark path that inevitably led to Jesse Pinkman being captured by a dangerous drug syndicate. Walter White is now dead, but his final act was to free Jesse from this group. The result was a shooting that wiped out everyone involved. Everyone, that is, except for Jesse Pinkman.
Wanted for his involvement in the shooting, as well as for the mountain of crimes he committed during his time cooking and dealing meth, Jesse is now on the run. He is all over the news, so he cannot stay hidden in Albuquerque, New Mexico forever. If he stays, it is only a matter of time before he gets caught, and he would surely spend the rest of his life in prison. He needs a plan to get out of town, but he cannot do it alone. Desperate for help, and desperate for people he can trust, Jesse seeks out a couple of old friends.
The Pros & Cons
Jesse Pinkman (+8pts)
The Plot (-4pts)
Jesse Plemons (+5pts)
The Nostalgia (+5pts)
Badger, Skinny Pete & The Police (-2pts)
Pro: Jesse Pinkman (+8pts)
Throughout Breaking Bad, I was always more fascinated by Jesse Pinkman's story than I was of Walter White's. Take nothing away from Bryan Cranston's incredible performance as the character, but I thought Walter White was more of a one-dimensional jerk, with a number redeeming moments. Jesse Pinkman, however, went through an incredible arc throughout the series. The character started the series as a simple, cocky, local drug dealer. Throughout the series, Jesse went through an insane rollercoaster of a story arc. He becomes a better, more responsible version of himself, but also suffers extreme loss that sends him to incredibly dark places (mentally).
The series finally came to an end, giving Jesse hope for freedom, but now we see that freedom does not end up coming so easily for him. I am honestly not sure how much you would enjoy this movie if you have not seen Breaking Bad. You would be able to get the gist of Jesse's story, sure, but you would not feel the true impact or the weight of what he has been through up until this point. Having seen Breaking Bad myself, I was totally invested in this movie. It was a continuation of an extremely compelling character and Aaron Paul, reprising his role, delivered a great dramatic performance that will hook you into caring about the character once again.
Con: The Plot (-4pts)
The plot of this movie left me confused as to why the filmmakers made the movie in the first place. My issue was that it felt like there was no real plot to this movie. If you look at this story, chronologically, Jesse does not do much. The filmmakers got around this by filming flashbacks to events that took place during Breaking Bad, but were not shown on screen during the series. Basically, what I am getting at is that the filmmakers did not seem to have a full story to tell, regarding Jesse's fate after the events of the series. Thus, at least half of this movie is flashbacks, in order to try to justify this movie.
Granted, the flashbacks were all new to the viewer, and they were necessary in order to setup some of the things that Jesse was doing after the events of Breaking Bad. It really was not that I disliked anything that happened in the flashbacks, it just felt like the filmmakers wanted to make a movie, but did not have enough story to tell regarding Jesse's fate after the events of the series. Their solution was to inject a bunch of flashbacks to act as filler, so that they could release a full movie. I was completely into the western-ish climax, and enjoyed most of what led up to that climax. However, to come back and deliver a Breaking Bad movie, I felt like this story could have been so much more.
Pro: Jesse Plemons (+5pts)
I definitely did not expect to see this guy in this movie because I know what happened to him at the end of Breaking Bad. Nonetheless, he was in this movie quite a bit, through the flashback scenes, and this movie was certainly better for it. The character is odd, and Jesse Plemons did a really great job playing him again. I understand that there may be some confusion. In the event that you do not know, Jesse Pinkman is the main character of this movie, played by Aaron Paul. Jesse Plemons, on the other hand, is the actor who plays Todd.
The way Jesse Plemons delivered his character's lines, as well as the character's general awkwardness, made him really entertaining whenever he was on screen. You never quite knew what this character would say, how he would respond to things, or where he would take Jesse Pinkman next. Jesse Pinkman is in a dark place in this movie, as this movie is the culmination of Jesse Pinkman's entire, tragic story. The inclusion of Todd provided some comedic relief, and it was so effective, thanks to the delivery from Jesse Plemons.
Con: Todd (-2pts)
I know I just said that I liked Jesse Plemons in this movie, so it probably seems like odd to see me list Todd as one of the movie's weaknesses. Let me explain. It is not that I do not think Todd had his purpose in this movie. He helped setup some things, while also acting as a comedic relief. My issue, which was a minor issue, was how much focus Todd got in this movie. I am fine with him being in there, but given the film's premise (being about Jesse Pinkman in the aftermath of the Breaking Bad finale), it seemed weird to me to spend so much time focusing on Todd through flashback sequences.
Pro: The Nostalgia (+5pts)
I am not normally one that likes it when filmmakers shove nostalgia in the viewer's face. That being said, the filmmakers of this movie did it really effectively. They used flashbacks to help explain Jesse's plan, and they used those flashbacks to throw in cameos of a number of classic Breaking Bad characters. I do not want to give any of them away, but I liked seeing them pop up in this movie, and I liked how naturally the filmmakers got them in here. None of these cameos felt forced. Each of these characters played an important part in Jesse's journey, which made every one of these cameos feel natural. Plus, it was just fun to see these characters again.
Con: Badger, Skinny Pete & The Police (-2pts)
Badger, Skinny Pete, and the police did not play much of a role in this movie, which I found disappointing. With Badger and Skinny Pete, we could have gotten more comedic relief characters, which would have allowed the filmmakers to use Todd more sparingly. Badger and Skinny Pete were in the beginning of the movie, but the story moved on from them, when it really did not need to. Then, despite what the initial trailer suggested, the police do not really play much of a role in this story.
The police were, for all intents and purposes, a background challenge for Jesse. Yes, he absolutely needed to avoid them, but he never even came close to getting caught. The police were just sort of a looming background threat, that could pop up at any time, but they never really did. This felt like a waste. Given how it felt like the filmmakers forced flashbacks into this movie in order to increase the run-time and to give Jesse a plan, having the police play such a small role felt like a wasted opportunity. Making them closer behind Jesse, almost catching him at every turn, could have added a lot of suspense to this movie. Oh well, the filmmakers chose to go another way.
Grade: B+ (85pts)
I was a huge fan of Breaking Bad, so I was really excited to see this movie. If you have not seen Breaking Bad, you will still understand this movie, but the movie is definitely a lot more effective if you have seen the series. Also, if you have not watched Breaking Bad, what are you doing? Watch it!
Aaron Paul was great in this movie, as he was back in the captivating role of Jesse Pinkman. This character has been through an incredible story arc that has captivated me from the beginning. Now, his story continues and it was just as compelling as it was in the series. The movie effectively utilized nostalgia through cameos, and brings Todd into this story in a big way, through flashbacks. I do not think Todd should have received as much screen time as he did, but his awkwardness made him really entertaining whenever he was on screen. I though the plot was on the weaker side, as there really was not much to it, but overall, I still enjoyed this movie quite a bit.