El Camino

18/10/19

Billed as ‘a Breaking Bad Movie,’ this Netflix orginal plays more like an extended episode of the much-loved television series, but that’s no bad thing. There are some loose ends that need tying up and writer/director Vince Gilligan gives it his best shot here. The titular vehicle is, of course, the one in which Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) finally makes his escape from the evil Nazi villains who have kept him locked up for so long.

Immediately, there are a few problems. The actors have clearly aged considerably more than the few minutes that are supposed to have elapsed since we last saw the characters. This is particularly evident in the case of Todd (Jesse Plemons), who now has an entirely different physique. However, once this abberation has been taken on board, the film motors along at full throttle, as Jesse sets about trying to engineer his disappearance off the face of the planet.

His first port of call is with old comrades, Badger (Matt Jones) and Skinny Pete (Charles Baker), the latter delivering what is probably the film’s most poignant line. As Jesse struggles to put together enough money to fund his disappearing act, the narrative becomes ever more convoluted, ever more dangerous – and there are regular flashbacks that allow deceased characters to make cameo appearances. Some fare better than others, and its a shame to note that the one we wanted to see more than any other, doesn’t really have an awful lot to add to the story. And fans of Better Call Saul are, I’m afraid, set for disappointment.

Gilligan’s familiar tropes are here: the big skies and sun-blasted landscapes of Alburquerque; the focus on the endearing oddities of the characters; the idiosyncratic dialogue. Despite his changed appearance, it’s Plemons who shines most as the psycopathic Todd, never more interesting than when he’s at the wheel of his car, singing serenely along to a slushy ballad while he transports the body of his latest victim to its last resting place. Sad too, to note the final performance from the recently deceased Robert Forster as the mysterious Ed.

This keeps me engaged right through to its tender and rather touching conclusion but, while it serves as a decent curtain-closer to the series, it doesn’t exactly blow me away. Perhaps too much time has elapsed since I last engaged with Mr Pinkman and co – or maybe those loose ends just don’t offer enough knots to unravel.

3.9 stars

Philip Caveney

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