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El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie

by Greg Vellante
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Wednesday Oct 16, 2019
'El Camino: A Breaking Bag Movie'
'El Camino: A Breaking Bag Movie'  

A television show's transfer from the small screen to the big screen is a practice that has provided triumphs ("Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me," "South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut" and, in all seriousness, the "Jackass" franchise) and misfires (I'd like to forget the "Sex and the City" movies never existed), and there are certainly times where the idea of this TV-to-movie transition seems unnecessary. "El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie" is one of these films, but that doesn't diminish its merits. "Breaking Bad" creator Vince Gilligan has given viewers closure on a character whose arc was left open-ended at the finale of the iconic TV show, taking us on a journey that wasn't quite needed but still feels welcome.

Jesse Pinkman was one of many fascinating characters on "Breaking Bad," yet his arc always fascinated me as to how it played in parallel with Walter White's descent into villainy. Jesse made his choices, and by the end of the series, we're watching him pay the price, devastatingly so. But what's so troubling about watching Jesse conclude the series imprisoned and producing meth for a gang of neo-Nazis is that he had just begun to make amends for his misdeeds. Prior to being treated like a caged animal, Jesse was en route to changing his life for the better. That's why when he escapes at the end of the series and drives off in an El Camino, screaming and crying, it's pure catharsis for anyone paying attention to his arc.

But what happened next? We didn't really need to know this answer, as the imagination is just as powerful a narrative tool as cinema can be, but Vince Gilligan gave it to us anyway. The result is a gritty, entertaining, and a thematically charged portrait of human behavior in the context of crime - or, in other words, identical to the show it is based on.

That makes sense, as Gilligan has a very particular style, but it's hard to shake the TV-ness of watching what's supposed to be a movie (which I watched in a theater, thankfully enough). Most people will watch it on TV anyway, so it's not something I'm keen to harp on despite my qualms, and the movie's momentum more than makes up for any aesthetic shortcomings.

This momentum has a bit of episodic nature to it, as well (you can tell exactly where the episode break would be if this were released as a two-part special Netflix event), but it doesn't change the fact that this movie is entertaining as hell and unexpectedly moving on many occasions. As Pinkman, Aaron Paul gives an absolutely stellar performance. I hope he manages to wriggle out of this character's clutches and forge an exciting movie career because he truly is a magnificent actor. But the real kicker was seeing Robert Forster in what turned out to be his final role (I returned home from my screening to news of his death, devastated).

We didn't need "El Camino," but at the end of the day, I'm glad we got it.

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