“El Camino” is the film sequel to the acclaimed TV series “Breaking Bad,” which ran from 2008 to 2013.
In the film, the action takes place mere moments where the series left off, as it follows Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) after his liberation from the group of white supremacists following months of captivity.
While “Breaking Bad’s” finale conveyed that Jesse’s freedom from his captors was also his release from the clutches of Heisenberg (Walter White, played by Bryan Cranston) who ruined his life, the ending was clearly geared to wrap up series protagonist Walter’s story more than anything else.
“El Camino” resolves this by acting as a character-centric epilogue to the series. The series’ final shot of Jesse showed him driving off in his Chevrolet El Camino and screaming with tears of joy. The film picks up on this premise, but suggests he isn’t in the clear just yet.
The film delivers on this promise by giving us a thrilling survival movie, where Jesse has to earn his freedom.
It begins with Jesse as the most wanted man in New Mexico, with everyone from the police to local gangs to greedy civilians wanting to get at him.
These types of manhunt movies are exciting and dynamic, since the characters always feel vulnerable and desperate.
Writer and director Vince Gilligan (also of “Breaking Bad” and “Better Call Saul”) is adept at staging these scenarios, and “El Camino” lets him play around with this genre even further.
The film features a Western-style shootout, shady deals and a lot of sneaking around in confined spaces. It’s thrilling to watch because Jesse’s back is against the wall and he has to use his wits to get out of dangerous situations.
The fact that it’s Jesse using his intelligence and creativity to secure his freedom is perhaps what will be most poignant for audiences. Jesse is a tragic character, the victim to the consequences of decisions he was forced to make. The film doesn’t require you to know the series to sell the tragedy of the character.
It starts with Jesse as prisoner, confined to the tragic fate of being associated with Heisenberg. The flashbacks also establish his relationships as prisons that he must be resigned to.
There’s the longest flashback of the film, where Jesse is psychopath Todd’s (Jesse Plemons) prisoner and grunt, but then flashbacks also establish how Jesse was a prisoner of sorts in partnering up with Heisenberg and in doing what he did for his lover’s survival.
The film effectively depicts Jesse’s tragedy, yet it also reflects that he’s a character capable and worthy of extricating himself out of his detrimental situation.
His transformation from a character (at the end of “Breaking Bad”) who is liberated to someone who does all he can to free himself should be satisfying for viewers emotionally invested in the movie.
One need not have seen “Breaking Bad” to appreciate the film’s conclusion, but a knowledge of its events makes it resonate a bit more.
Jesse Pinkman supposed to be killed off in the first season of “Breaking Bad,” so it’s fitting that the (as-of-now) closing chapter of the saga is a proper sendoff and celebration of what makes the fan-favorite character special. —CONTRIBUTED