Starring Aaron Paul, Jesse Plemons, Krysten Ritter, Charles Baker, Matt Jones. Directed by Vince Gilligan.
Movies based on TV shows are making something of a return. Downton Abbey is currently very popular among the silver pound, and next year a prequel to the legendary The Sopranos comes in the form of The Many Saints of Newark. But the saga of Breaking Bad, the story of one Ned Flanders looking teacher with cancer turning into the bald bonce kingpin and frequent porkpie hat wearing Heisenberg was the stuff of TV gold.
The show saw enough memes, loyal cosplayers and people going “have you seen Breaking Bad? It’s really good” to start a cult. Though the show had a perfect ending, one that left you satisfied and happy (unlike the recently wrapped Game of Thrones), the story went back and charted the origins of smart-ass lawyer Saul Goodman in Better Call Saul which has earned rave reviews, high ratings and a hefty dose of Emmy nominations every year.
Now, we get this. Taking place after the events of the show, El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie follows Jesse Pinkman after he escaped from the Neo-Nazis that Walter White had sold him out to, and charts his attempts to piece his life back together, while showing us what he endured while in captivity.
From the off this is one for the fans; while people not versed in Breaking Bad could enjoy the more offbeat charms of prequel series Better Call Saul, if you haven’t followed the story thus far there is really nothing to grab onto with this film.
As far as the film itself is concerned, it’s an epilogue to the show, rounding off the series post-Walt and showing us the depth of Jesse. While Jesse was always someone we as audiences made a snap judgement of as a foul-mouthed thug, he always showed us he had a sensitive heart, while there was often nothing but darkness inside Walter White. What follows here is a dark psycho-drama that has at its core someone who deserves better than what he got.
Vince Gilligan, acting as director and writer, knows this character and clearly loves him. Having spoken of planning to kill Jesse early and then changing his mind, it shows in how he lets the camera linger on him, and follow him doing little of anything.
In playing Jesse, Aaron Paul shows depths he didn’t venture even in the show. There’s less arrogant “yeah bitch” and more a silent role, someone haunting by trauma. He fantastically shows the post-trauma stress that comes from what he endured. The subtle work done on turning him into someone else is a masterclass of work that in a way is the opposite of what happened with Cranston’s work.
The supporting cast are all very solid; Jesse Plemons as Todd Alquist, Krysten Ritter as Jesse’s deceased girlfriend Jane, Charles Baker and Matt Jones as Jesse’s friends Skinny Pete and Brandon “Badger” Mayhew all return on good form. That said, this is entirely Paul and Gilligan’s show.
While the cinematography and score underline the subtle work that this is doing, there is a sense that the film doesn’t really need to exist. Did we need to know what happened to Jesse? Probably not, but it’s here and it doesn’t undo the poetic nature of the story, and to its credit it does offer us something that great dramas do – Hope.
It’s slight, and inconsequential, but it’s a fantastic showcase for the two, and doesn’t let the story down. Yeah bitch.