Vince Gilligan’s new “El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie” isn’t really a movie. It’s more of an extended epilogue to “Breaking Bad,” a conclusion to the story of Jesse Pinkman. One could consider it an episode of the show. Unfortunately, this final “episode” of one of the greatest drama series in history doesn’t have much going for it.
Despite the writing and direction of Gilligan, the mastermind behind both “Breaking Bad” and its prequel series “Better Call Saul,” “El Camino” struggles to find meaning in its story. In fact, it struggles to find much of a story at all. Ultimately, the film feels empty, falling substantially short of the consistently engaging and emotionally devastating twists of the original series. Instead, it feels boring and unnecessary. The entirety of the film is implied within the final moments of “Breaking Bad,” and the storyline adds nothing new or interesting to the characters it tries to explore. Any fan of “Breaking Bad” should have been able to guess where this film would end, and there’s nothing along the way that makes “El Camino’s” story interesting or deep enough to deserve its own film.
The plot is simple. “El Camino” begins right where “Breaking Bad’s” final episode, “Felina,” ended, following Jesse as he speeds away in a stolen El Camino from the scene of his liberation and of Walter White’s death. The film then takes the audience on a journey through Albuquerque and Jesse’s past, as the meth cook scrambles to find a way to leave town permanently, all while evading police and the friends of his former captors. The film has all the feel of a “Breaking Bad” episode. It has flip phones and stunning cinematography, pronounced colors and the ever-present feeling of death. But it lacks that punch, that meaning and significance the original series imbued into every episode. Gilligan obviously wanted to see Jesse’s story concluded in a more concrete way, but the film feels like nothing more than an afterthought. Gilligan focused too heavily on the story he wanted to tell with Jesse’s departure, and not enough on why he wanted to tell it.
While the film lacks meaning and purpose, it does have an immensely talented cast. Aside from the excellent Aaron Paul in the starring role, “El Camino” also boasts the involvement of Jonathan Banks as Mike Ehrmantraut, Robert Forester as Ed Galbraith and of course Bryan Cranston as Walter White. Most of these returning characters only get one scene, showing up in flashbacks of Jesse’s life before he was taken. But each of these scenes reminded me what phenomenal actors each of them really are — especially Cranston, who gave me chills simply by walking silently down a hallway in his first appearance of the film.
“El Camino” is an empty film with the signature production value of “Breaking Bad.” The film tries to fool audiences into believing it has all the same significance of a normal episode, but it doesn’t. It fails to add anything to the vibrant characters of its universe or to the rich lore of the “Breaking Bad” world. “El Camino” is unnecessary, and “Breaking Bad” would have been better off leaving the final moments of “Felina” and the tones of Badfinger’s song “Baby Blue” as its last word.