El Camino

Vince Gilligan, 2019

Rating: 1 out of 5

The lengthy episodic nature of television allows for long character arcs which are slowly developed over seasons through their collective experiences in different events, big and small. The strength of Breaking Bad lies in the relationships created between the characters of the show, in particular Jesse and Walt. We know these characters are deeply troubled with many demons, and that is part of the journey we go on with them.

Transitioning from something that has been built up over five years so successfully to a two hour singular film was always going to be difficult. After the opening Breaking Bad recap, followed by the arrival of Jesse at the house of his friends Skinny Pete and Badger I was feeling cautiously optimistic. I was reminded of the power of the show's warmth in its central themes, and was ready for the journey that would lie ahead.

Unfortunately what followed largely felt lifeless, without any of the charm that made the show so endearing despite its problematic characters. The basis of the plot is that Jesse must find enough money to fund an escape to a new life through Ed, the vacuum salesman, portrayed by the ever reliable Robert Forster. As he attempts to find money Jesse is faced with many obstacles that become increasingly predictable and tedious as the film goes on.

The present challenges faced by Jesse are contrasted with his past struggles, focussing on his time with Todd when he was held captive before his escape. These flashbacks add nothing to the story that we have not already experienced, and feel like a gruelling exercise in torture themselves.

With a story that fails to captivate, the direction attempts to rectify this with numerous over-stylised shots. Take for example its repeated use of a handful of landscape establishing shots for each scene, or efforts to place the camera at as many unique angles as possible, there is no consistency to the structure to tie the story together in a coherent cinematic way.

By the time the film was over, the whole affair seemed redundant. An unnecessary epilogue that lacks the depth, humour and focus of a show that was able to build up complex plots and characters over long periods of time. This might please die-hard Jesse fans looking for closure for his character, but for me the importance of the show was never in getting nicely tied up ends, but in "the journey" throughout.

Written by Daniel Metcalf

Daniel Metcalf