Fans of “Breaking Bad” will instantly be familiar with the opening moments of the show’s spin-off, “El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie.” It picks up right where the show left off, with Walter White invading the heist and saving Jesse Pinkman. From the few teaser trailers that the audience was given to dissect, one could tell that the movie revolved around one question: Where is Pinkman?
Six years have passed since the end of “Breaking Bad,” which was originally planned to be a stand-alone television show, with director and writer Vince Gilligan having no interest in continuing it. On June 25, 2019 Aaron Paul and Bryan Cranston simultaneously posted a teaser image of two donkeys on Twitter, causing fans to stir from excitement. The arrival of the film was announced soon after.
But instead of being a stand-alone movie which drew from the intriguing storyline of “Breaking Bad” as its creative source, it felt more like another elongated episode of the show itself. This is because the story really dwells on a singular character for the film rather than using the rest of the Breaking Bad cast. It also spends a lot of time diving into Pinkman’s mental state after all the events that happened in the season finale.
At the start of the movie, Pinkman is shown escaping the Skinheads grasp as White gives him an opportunity to escape through self-sacrifice. Within the first ten minutes, the audience gets to see iconic characters like Skinny Pete and Badger make a reappearance to help out Pinkman. Both characters play a pivotal role in helping Pinkman regain his footing.
A big chunk of the film is dedicated to Jesse finding money from an apartment, which we later find out is important in setting him free. Everything boils down to the money, which is the key for Pinkman to achieve his freedom from the vacuum cleaner store owner. In his last act of mischief in the film, Pinkman tricks his parents to steal a gun in order to take back the money that was stolen from him.
Throughout Pinkmans’ journey towards freedom, there are many odes to the show’s many seasons through flashbacks that only seasoned “Breaking Bad” fans will understand. But Gilligan’s ode-paying ventures feel more like a thank you to the show base that has fuelled the success of the show over the years.
This is not to discredit the best flashback of the movie, when we get to see Walter White by Jesse’s side as they talk about their hopes for the future at a diner. Knowing that White is now dead alludes to the fact that time is precious and what you do with it matters. The theme of new beginnings starts to take hold in the last half of the film when Pinkman begins to realize all the things he’s done through the flashbacks.
The film itself is named after Pinkman’s getaway car. It serves as the backdrop for Pinkman’s flashbacks and is also the main link to all his previous problems. The El Camino directly helps connect the show to the film.
Gilligan told Variety magazine “I’d like to believe he got away, and then I thought, ‘Well that’s up to the individual viewer to figure out.’ But then I thought, ‘Well, really, how did he get away? Or did he get busted around the corner?’” The inspiration for the film was drawn from the pure curiosity he hoped would entice the audience.
In a very Gilligan fashion, the cinematography and directing was the shining light of the film. His unique approach to each scene kept viewers engaged. The directorial style in which the film is shot helps engage the audience and keep viewers at the center of the action. We sense Pinkman’s peril during every moment throughout the film.
Overall, the film offers a more unconventional film angle approach which helped blend in the many flashbacks scenes with the action as it unfolded on the screen. The beginning shower sequence is a prime example of this showing off masterful editing. Before the screening, Gilligan and star Aaron Paul walked out to address the audience and said, “Basically, you’ll either love it or hate it.”
The movie is more of a resolution arc for Pinkman rather than a roundabout film with a clear resolution. The final scene of the film sees him driving off to start his new life in Alaska, leaving the viewer reassured that he can start over in a new part of the world. We know that he will be alright.