Minor spoilers for Breaking Bad exist in the synopsis below. Read at your own risk!
In 2008 Breaking Bad hit television. The first season was only eight episodes, but it quickly got a following. In 2013, after only 64 episodes, the show came to a close and it was heralded as one of the best, if not the best, television show of all-time. That’s quite an accomplishment. I’ll go on the assumption that anyone reading this review has already seen the aforementioned show (or is at least familiar with the concept), so I won’t rehash what happened. When the series ended, there were some loose ends. Those weren’t so much that it left the viewers asking “what just happened?” but more along the lines of letting them draw their own conclusions. Oh sure, there was speculation that Walter White (Bryan Cranston) might not be dead, but the main “what if…” was what happened to Jesse Pinkman. El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie focuses on Pinkman and gives us more than we wanted or needed to know. And that’s not a bad thing.
The movie takes up right where Breaking Bad left off. The aftermath of Walter White’s massacre has left Jesse frightened and confused. The police are on the way and Jesse has to make a run for it. He heads off in his El Camino and seeks help from his old pals, Badger (Matt Jones) and Skinny Pete (Charles Baker). The three concoct a plan to get rid of the car and get Jesse out of town. But Jesse wants some money to start his new life somewhere (most likely Alaska) and heads back to Todd’s (Jesse Plemons) apartment to try and find his stash. Told in a series of flashbacks and in real-time, we follow Jesse as he tries to process the recent events and how he plans for the future, bleak as it may be.
I liken this movie to Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. I might be one of the few to do that, but I’ll explain. There really wasn’t a need for either of these. Rogue One served to seal a thirty year old plot hole in Star Wars. Likewise, El Camino really only serves the purpose of letting us know what happened to Aaron Paul’s character. Did we need to know? No, not really. But it’s a love letter to the character and the fans of Breaking Bad. Writer/Director Vince Gilligan certainly hasn’t lost his touch, and why should he – he’s been doing Better Call Saul since Bad ended. All in all, it was nice to see some familiar faces and once again delve into Vince Gilligan’s world. And if you ever thought you had a bad day, just consider Jesse Pinkman’s – bound and forced to make meth only to survive a massacre and then hiding from the police for the rest of your life. All the sudden things aren’t so bad, are they?
Video: How’s it look?
This one is a bit different. Then again, this is a different type of movie. The entire Breaking Bad series was shot in 1.78:1 whereas El Camino features a more “movie like” aspect ratio of 2.35:1. There’s not a definitive need for this, though it did give the movie a different feel than its TV predecessor. There’s a certain scene where Jesse is looking around Todd’s apartment for the money, it gives a very distinctive “rat in a maze” effect that’s perfect for this aspect ratio. Gilligan even admits that this scene was custom made for widescreen. That said, the image is strikingly beautiful. We go from the bright New Mexico desert, to the depths of shadows in a desolate garage – and everything in between. It’s a good-looking transfer and one that viewers will enjoy.
Audio: How’s it sound?
Let’s face it, Breaking Bad was a television show that was never (and never did) test the limits of your sound system. El Camino is really no different. There are some scenes which make use of the surrounds, but by and large this is a dialogue-driven film with the front stage taking the brunt of the mix. Vocals are sharp and crisp, even Skinny Pete and Badger and all those voices from characters long gone and (not) forgotten come back to haunt the viewer! It’s a good-sounding mix, but nothing to write home about.
Supplements: What are the extras?
Audio Commentary – Vince Gilligan and Aaron Paul team up for one of the better commentary tracks I’ve heard in a while. I guess it helps if you’re a die-hard fan of the show. Gilligan takes the lead as he wrote and directed the movie, tells his motivations and Paul does a lot of “Yeah, I agree…” but does offer some insight to his tortured (on many levels) character and the like. It’s a great listen.
Deleted and Extended Scenes – Seven in all, totaling nearly 17 minutes.
Get the Hell Off My Driveway
Gnome Man’s Land
That Elco’s the Tits
Out of Sight
Gag Reel – Some mishaps and the like. We all know what gag reels are by now.
Scene Studies with Vince Gilligan – Gilligan dissects a few scenes and gives us his input on them.
Super Commentary! – An ensemble audio commentary featuring 46 members of the cast and crew. And they’re not kidding. There’s nearly 50 actors and members of the cast and crew who all chime in. The commentary is led off by Jonathan Banks, who played Mike in Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul. This was interesting, but with the wealth of people contributing, I found it a bit hard to follow.
Making El Camino – A behind-the-scenes documentary featuring never-before-seen interviews with the cast and crew
Snow Globe: A Breaking Bad Short – We get a look at Todd (Jesse Plemons) as he talks to Lydia prior to their meeting and at some of the rather disturbing snow globes he makes as his hobby.
Skinny Pete in the Box Teaser – This one is best left unspoiled. Enjoy.
On the Radio Teaser – Ah, the songs and what they could mean…
Rocker Salvage Commercial – A mock commercial for Big Joe’s company.
Vamonos Pest Commercial – Likewise another mock commercial for the fictional fumigation company in the show.
“Enchanted” by Chloe x Halle – Music video.
Visual Effects Design Galleries – We get a look at some of the look and feel of the show.
The Bottom Line
This is essentially a gift for Breaking Bad fans. There really wasn’t a need for this other than to provide some closure and/or explanation for Aaron Paul’s character. It was nice to see some of the “departed” characters in the movie once again and I’m assuming that most of the die-hard fans have moved onto Better Call Saul – I have. But this makes a nice bookend to the series and the wealth of supplements make this one a must own for fans of the series.