The Daily Gamecock

Review: Go, Jesse, go! 'El Camino' has viewers on edge of their seats

El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie
El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie

Movie: “El Camino”'

Release Date: Oct. 11, 2019

Director: Vince Gilligan

Run Time: 2 hours 2 minutes 

Rating: A

Known for its brilliant acting, plot structure, character development and ambiguous moral questions, the critically acclaimed series "Breaking Bad" had viewers racking their brains for the meaning, hidden details and implications of each scene. The spin-off movie from Vince Gilligan’s "Breaking Bad," "El Camino," follows Jesse’s (Aaron Paul) life after escaping enslavement by neo-confederate and neo-Nazi thugs. 

Fans long anticipating the film will find  the directors and producers understood exactly what elements of the show needed to be incorporated into the movie.

"El Camino" opened with a flashback of Jesse and Mike (Jonathan Banks) discussing what to do with their lives after stepping away from the underground meth-dealing business. The audience knew exactly where the movie was going from the jump: Jesse would search for his freedom after his long and tragic stint of producing and distributing meth. 

As the conversation comes to a close, the scene cuts to where "Breaking Bad" left off. Jesse, now liberated, is speeding away from the scene of Walter White’s (Bryan Cranston) death. From that point, the race is on not only between Jesse and his pursuers, but, more importantly, between Jesse and his inner demons.

Appearances by fan favorite characters Walter White, Pinkman’s (Michael Bofshever) buddies Skinny Pete (Charles Baker) and Badger (Matt Jones) and Mike gives fans closure, as all contributed to Jesse’s story in a profound way. Most impressive of all is Paul’s portrayal of Jesse, reprising the role in a way only he can.

Acting aside, this film stands out in its cinematography. Not only did "El Camino" resurrect the ambiance from "Breaking Bad" with its distinct filming style, but the way it played with the camera’s focus effectively advanced the plot even in moments with no dialogue. Having the audience focus on characters' subtle facial expressions or certain objects essential to the story expanded on the cinematographic elements used in "Breaking Bad."

A recurring theme throughout the film was the extent to which Jesse was willing to stoop to someone else's inhumane requests for his own self-preservation. The brilliant emotion in Paul’s performance allowed for an inspiring story of a character who challenged viewers’ moral compass and view of humanity. This is especially through Jesse’s interactions with his taskmaster, Todd (Jesse Plemons), who returns in the movie as an extreme version of what fans thought he potentially could become at the end of "Breaking Bad": An eerily psychotic baby-faced criminal.

If Joaquin Phoenix’s depiction of a character emerging as a villain after tragic circumstances is too eerie for audiences, let "El Camino" be its antithesis. It's a story of a notorious criminal and fugitive who, even in tragic circumstances, finds a way to maintain his moral compass and principled humanity in a situation that would have broken most.

With incredible acting, storytelling and cinematography driving the plot, "El Camino" is a must-see for anyone interested in Jesse’s life in the aftermath of "Breaking Bad," or for anyone generally interested in excellent films.