I missed the time-lapsed shots of Albuquerque, New Mexico. I missed the creative point-of-view shots where they attached the camera to an inanimate object, and elevated the level of immersion. I missed the little bobbles the camera did during those panoramic shots of characters conversing in a desert landscape. A large part of what made Breaking Bad what it was, which was one great piece of television, was the extensively inventive camera work and cinematography. But in El Camino, something just felt a bit off. The inventiveness is still there so the problem might be the widescreen aspect ratio. Perhaps they got new equipment and went from film to digital. They retained the style but slightly lost the aesthetic. Such a minor complaint, but not everything can be as perfect as what preceded this.
El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie brings back that feeling when every new Breaking Bad episode left you satisfied, but hungry for more. Even if one installment tied up all loose ends, the writing would find a plausible way to continue the story forward. Remember Season 4’s finale? The show could’ve ended with Walter Walt finally eliminating Gus Fring, and we all could’ve lived happily ever after without witnessing the downfall of Heisenberg. But where does Season 5 begin? A seemingly insignificant, but plausible loose end involving Fring’s laptop sets in motion one last job where Walt’s trying to sever his only remaining connection to the meth empire owned by the fast-food restaurateur. You could say El Camino is the Season 5 to Jesse Pinkman’s arc. We know he escaped from Jack’s compound and is now on the run. What logical steps will his arc follow?
You can speculate all you want about the scope of what happens in this film. My advice to you would be this – sit back, enjoy the ride. Appreciate the various film-making sensibilities Vince Gilligan brought back into the fold. Logical dialogue, unexpected dark humor and extended sequences where you don’t know what’s going on until it finally hits you in the face and everything starts making sense – it’s all there. Even the select few supporting cast members that returned are just the way we last saw them (apart from some members having glaring size and age differences which I’ll get into later). Badger and Skinny Pete are still the same pop-culture reference-making buddies we adore. I love the research that probably went into making their gamer speak seem as authentic as possible. Normal actors playing car-racing video games typically go “Turn! Turn! Go! Go Faster!” but Gilligan here goes the extra mile and replaces it with “You’re apexing too early!”. It’s the little things, but they make a whole world of difference.
Unfortunately, this attention to detail did not apply to everything. The make-up department was unable to hide some of the obvious ageing processes the supporting cast went through in the real world. You have to suspend disbelief at some of the obvious weight fluctuations by chalking it up to “Well, we don’t know what exactly happened when Jesse spent all those months at the mercy of those Neo-Nazis.” It is a tough pill to swallow, but like I already said, not everything can be as perfect as what preceded this.
Vince Gilligan largely succeeds in doing exactly what he set out to do. El Camino is a plausible continuation and conclusion to the Breaking Bad saga, which is what everyone wanted and got. He manages to implement the elements of a psychological thriller, a neo-noir crime drama, a dark comedy and (unexpectedly) a western in this feature film. It aims to serve as an epilogue to Breaking Bad but ends up leaving you wanting more. You realize you’re never going to get enough of this world and are hoping that Better Call Saul will keep that need alive. But as this movie ends around the two-hour mark, you realize it’s never going to be enough. The television series that popularized binge-watching will invite you to start it all over again.