How can we define “bad?” There‘s the idea of a bad sequel, including how Sicario: Day of the Soldado is a bad sequel to the critically acclaimed Sicario. Then there‘s El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie, a motion picture about a bad person, based on a critically acclaimed TV show about a bad person. Because I only saw the first three episodes of the series, I knew none of the characters’ backstories going into this epilogue movie, just that it centered on a chemistry teacher who started a drug trading business that broke his family.
Clearly, that means this Netflix experience isn’t designed for people like me, but those who watched the entire show. If you didn’t, the dullness of this empty feature film does nothing but make you feel dirty. But if you did, the deep understanding about the stakes behind Jesse’s path gives you a richer satisfaction to the end of Breaking Bad.
As expected, Jesse never performs a single moral deed for anyone, for his personality has nothing to like. The same goes to the other male characters, none of which are written with much depth, and take actions that are disturbing in all the wrong ways, especially when one sings out loud to upbeat country music while on the road.
Instead, there are engaging camera tricks to earn sympathy, proving that director Vince Gilligan possesses the skill to someday create a masterpiece. His careful pacing crops the cast’s consistently good acting inside the rooms’ objects to stress a sporadic apartment search montage, as does a 90-degree pivot of the screen and a cool aerial view of black and white cars. Even though these elements go by unnoticed, other much louder effects, such as a time-lapse above the town, keeps up the energy. Then while Jesse is hiding with a couple of friends, a focused frame on a showerhead transitions to him getting hosed.
The southern-set colors keep within the cold spectrum, a great modern-day western that is the complete reverse of Roger Deakin’s incredible work from No Country for Old Men. It’s accordingly set mostly indoors within cramped walls, or outside under overcast skies. Many shadows enhance the clever interiors by the tightly cropped tension of guns pointed toward each other. To cap the series of haunting images, the very end of the movie gives a pale view of snow over the ground, not on the trees.
Some of the dialogue works in giving even further anxiety than what the locations already accomplish, particularly one exchange in a vacuum cleaner store, when the owner allegedly gives the police a phone call. Jesse claims the man faked the call; it ends up being a funny exchange with subtle humor mixed into the tension. Plus, Bryan Cranston’s brief appearance works great as always.
These plusses aren’t enough though to redeem the flaw that Jesse has no apparent personal opinions about any of the other characters, especially for those who influence his crazy heart. Jesse doesn’t seem to care whether if he winds up behind bars, probably more due to the messy flashback structure that becomes difficult, almost a chore, to invest in, even for those who watched the whole series. This functions as more white noise for its lack of originality in approach to a familiar genre, one that has a missed opportunity to include Mexico’s involvement of the crisis.
You may now think, “Why did you watch this movie in the first place?” Well, upon deciding my review subject this week, I got stuck. Of the weekend releases, The Addams Family clearly had zero Oscar chances at Best Animated Feature, yet Abominable came out two weeks prior, and I wondered if perhaps it was “good enough” to squeeze into the Oscar nominees. Although based on critical reception, I concluded that it was most likely DreamWorks’ second cartoon film of 2019 deserves a D+ or lower, thus meaning it has no real chances at Best Animated Feature. Once I then saw El Camino got higher than a 90% on RottenTomatoes, I ultimately decided on that.
Again, how can we define “bad?” There’s the bad of Tom Cruise at the start of Rain Man, or the bad of travel buddy John Candy from Planes, Trains, and Automobiles until his backstory is revealed. However, badness ultimately stems from perspective. Turns out the Breaking Bad Movie will never be an instant classic crime thriller all college boys will want a poster of, just something meant to be thrown off a cliff after a few months, Thelma & Louise style, for its lack of exploiting its full potential. It should only be watched after watching every episode first, otherwise, it’s a straight-up bad movie instead of an okay movie. I made the mistake of choosing to see the Downton Abbey movie without watching a single episode, now don’t you do the same, for that, or for this, or for any TV spinoff movie we may get in the future.
If there is a specific movie you’d like to see graded, or if you are interested in guest blogging for my site, please email me at Trevor@TrevorsViewOnHollywood.com for your recommendations.
Have a great weekend, and happy watching!
El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie. Netflix. Web. <https://www.netflix.com/title/81078819>.
Rothstein, Ben. “Aaron Paul in El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie.” Digital image. Vox. Netflix, 11 Oct 2019. Web. <https://www.vox.com/culture/2019/10/11/20908346/el-camino-review-breaking-bad-netflix-jesse-pinkman-walter-white>.