El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie (2019) ☆☆☆(3/4): An epilogue he deserves

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I remember well how much I was intrigued and thrilled by “Breaking Bad”, one of the best American TV drama series I have ever watched during last 10 years. While wryly observing its ordinary hero’s increasingly disturbing criminal journey with a biting sense of dark humor, this acclaimed TV drama series also works as a powerful moral tale on actions and consequences, and it was really entertaining for me and other constant viewers to see how everything culminated to the superlative finale during its last season.

Because everything was wrapped up so well during the final episodes of “Breaking Bad”, I was rather skeptical when I heard about the production of “El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie” some time ago, but I am now glad to report to you that “El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie”, which was released on Netflix on last Friday, is better than I expected. While it is intended mainly for the constant viewers of “Breaking Bad”, the movie is often compelling and riveting in terms of mood, performance, and storytelling, and, above all, it also serves a satisfying closure to one of the most interesting main characters in “Breaking Bad”.

For some people who have not watched all of the 62 episodes of “Breaking Bad”, I will give you the brief summary of what Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) endured because of his criminal partner Walter White (Bryan Cranston), a high school chemistry teacher who once taught Pinkman. When he was diagnosed to have a lung cancer which might be terminal, White, who was a brilliant and promising chemist when he was younger, decided to try producing and selling methamphetamine for getting some money for his family, so he subsequently enlisted Pinkman in his criminal business because Pinkman knew well local drug dealers as your average junkie lad, and then, what do you know, they soon found themselves on the top of local drug business as producing and supplying methamphetamine in unprecedented high quality. Of course, the situation became quite darker as they got involved with some of the most dangerous criminal figures in their New Mexico area, and Pinkman became a lot more conflicted than before as his mentor/partner was gradually transformed from a desperate family man to a ruthless drug kingpin.

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At the end of the final episode of “Breaking Bad”, Pinkman was fortunately released from his captive status under a deplorable white supremacy gang, which had exploited his particular set of skills for a while but then was eventually eliminated thanks to a vengeful act of White. While White died shortly after that, Pinkman quickly left the scene by a car, but, as shown from the beginning of the movie, he is now being hunted by the police, and he really needs to escape from his town as soon as possible. He manages to find a temporary shelter thanks to his two junkie friends, but time is running out for him minute by minute, and he must act quickly before the police track him down.

As Pinkman desperately tries to find any possible way out, his mind is often haunted by the hurtful memories of his captive status, and a number of flashback scenes show us how much he suffered because of Todd Alquist (Jesse Plemons) and other members of that white supremacy gang. At one point, we see Alquist taking Pinkman to his seemingly normal residence in the town, and the movie alternatively amuses and jolts us as revealing what Alquist intends to do with Pinkman, who is reminded again of what a cold-blooded psychopath Alquist is behind his mild, casual appearance.

At least, that horrid experience gives Pinkman a piece of knowledge which may help his escape, and the movie deftly balances itself between humor and suspense during a sequence revolving around Pinkman’s desperate search. There is a funny moment involved with an old busybody who may notice anything suspicious around him, and then there comes a tense moment as Pinkman may have to confront a couple of unexpected figures who come to interrupt his ongoing search.

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As skillfully accumulating narrative momentum along the plot, director/writer Vince Gillian, who is also the creator/producer of “Breaking Bad”, did a competent job of filling the screen with considerable atmosphere and details. Like many of the best episodes of “Breaking Bad”, the movie is visually impressive for its thoughtful camera work and scene composition, and I particularly like how Gillian and his crew members effectively utilize widescreen for delivering several dramatic shots including the one which slowly and calmly reveals something quite ghastly on the floor.

As the center of the movie, Aaron Paul, who won three Emmy awards for his performance in “Breaking Bad”, is solid as before, and he is also supported well by a number of various performers including the ones who memorably appeared in “Breaking Bad”. It is certainly nice to see Matt Jones, Jesse Plemons, Charles Baker, Krysten Ritter, Kevin Rankin, Larry Hankin, Tess Harper, Michael Bofshever, Robert Forster, Jonathan Banks, and Bryan Cranston again, and Forster’s brief appearance in the movie feels particularly poignant because he passed away shortly after the movie came out.

Overall, “El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie” is as competent and entertaining as intended, and I think it is good enough to stand alone by itself although you need to watch “Breaking Bad” first for fully enjoying and appreciating it. Yes, this is basically a 2-hour special episode, but it is done fairly well in many aspects, so I recommend it despite some understandable hesitation.

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