El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie
|El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie|
|Directed by||Vince Gilligan|
|Written by||Vince Gilligan|
|Based on||Breaking Bad|
by Vince Gilligan
|Music by||Dave Porter|
|Edited by||Skip Macdonald|
El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie (or simply El Camino) is a 2019 American neo-western crime film that continues the television series Breaking Bad. Series creator Vince Gilligan wrote, directed, and produced the film, while Aaron Paul reprised his role as Jesse Pinkman. The plot follows what happens to Pinkman following the events of the series finale. Several actors, including Jesse Plemons, Krysten Ritter, Jonathan Banks, and Bryan Cranston, reprise their original roles from the series. El Camino was also the final film to feature Robert Forster, who died on the day of its release.
A Breaking Bad feature film was rumored ever since the series' finale in 2013. Gilligan approached Paul with the idea in 2017, near the tenth anniversary of Breaking Bad, and filming began in secret in New Mexico in November 2018, lasting nearly 60 days. The project remained unconfirmed until August 2019, when Netflix released a trailer.
El Camino was released digitally on Netflix, as well as limited theatrically, on October 11, 2019, with television broadcast at a later date on AMC. It received positive reviews from critics, who praised Paul's performance and noted the film as closure for fans of the series.
In a flashback,[N 1] Jesse Pinkman and Mike Ehrmantraut discuss their departure from Walter White's meth business and what they will do next. Mike opines on relocating to Alaska, an idea Jesse finds amenable. Jesse expresses a desire to make amends for his wrongdoing, but Mike warns him that he will never succeed.
In the present, Jesse flees the Brotherhood compound in Todd Alquist's El Camino.[N 2] He goes to his friends Skinny Pete and Badger Mayhew, who help hide the El Camino for the night and shelter Jesse. After cleaning up, including shaving his head, Jesse calls Old Joe to dispose of the El Camino, but Joe discovers the car has LoJack installed, and advises Jesse that authorities will likely be after it. Skinny Pete has Badger drive Pete's Ford Thunderbird several hours out of town and gives Jesse Badger's Pontiac Fiero to escape with. Pete stays with the El Camino to provide a cover story to the police.
Several flashbacks show Jesse in captivity under Todd at the compound. During one period, Todd took Jesse to his apartment to help dispose of the body of his cleaning lady, who had found his stash of money. In the present, Jesse goes to Todd's apartment, which had already been searched by police, to look for Todd's money. He spends all night ransacking the apartment, finding nothing, although he sees from a nearby apartment a news report with his parents begging Jesse to turn himself in. He falls back against the refrigerator in frustration and hears something shift, which leads to his finding money stashed within the refrigerator door, just as two police officers, Neil and Casey, arrive. Jesse hides as the men search the apartment but is forced to hold them at gunpoint when they discover him. Jesse soon recognizes they are not police, but thugs also looking for Todd's money. When they tie him up, he offers to show them where it is. Casey goes to distract the apartment's landlord, while Jesse bargains with Neil for a three-way split of the funds. Jesse recognizes Neil when they depart as the welder who built the structure he was tethered to at the compound.
Jesse goes looking for Saul Goodman's "disappearer", vague on the specific details, but soon deduces the right vacuum store. Jesse presents Todd's cash to Ed Galbraith, the disappearer, but Ed wants not only the fee to help Jesse now but also payment for the previous time when Jesse was a no-show.[N 3] Jesse is short by $1800, and Ed refuses to deal with him until he has all the funds. Jesse calls his parents and feigns being willing to turn himself in to draw them away from the house. Jesse finds no money there but takes two guns from his father's safe.
Jesse drives to the welders' shop and asks Neil for the remaining funds he needs for Ed, upsetting Casey who had no idea about the "3 way split". Neil refuses to give up the money but seeing the gun in Jesse's waistband, challenges him to a duel for his share. Jesse agrees, but tricks and kills Neil by using another gun he has in his jacket. Jesse also kills Casey when he starts firing back. Jesse forces the remaining men, at gunpoint, to leave their drivers' licenses and flee, then claims Neil's share of the cash and blows up the shop to cover his tracks.
In a flashback, Walt and Jesse have breakfast at a hotel diner after one of their meth cooks.[N 4] Walt laments having waited his entire life to do something substantial, and envies that Jesse does not have to do the same.
Jesse pays Ed, who smuggles him to Alaska and directs him to the town of Haines. Jesse hands Ed a letter to mail to Brock Cantillo. As Jesse drives off to start his new life, he has a final flashback to his time with Jane Margolis.[N 5] He tells her how he admires that she always lets the universe take her wherever it pleases. She denies this, instead encouraging him to make his own decisions.
- Aaron Paul as Jesse Pinkman, a former meth cook who once partnered with drug kingpin Walter White
- Jesse Plemons as Todd Alquist, one of Jesse's captors and a member of the neo-Nazi group
- Krysten Ritter as Jane Margolis, Jesse's former girlfriend
- Charles Baker as Skinny Pete, Jesse's friend
- Matt Jones as Brandon "Badger" Mayhew, Jesse's friend
- Scott Shepherd as Casey, Neil's partner
- Scott MacArthur as Neil, a welder involved in Jesse's captivity
- Tom Bower as Lou, Todd's neighbor across the hall
- Kevin Rankin as Kenny, one of Jesse's captors
- Larry Hankin as Old Joe, the owner of a local junkyard who previously helped Jesse and Walter out of several scenarios
- Tess Harper as Diane Pinkman, Jesse's mother
- Michael Bofshever as Adam Pinkman, Jesse's father
- Marla Gibbs as Jean, a woman shopping for a vacuum cleaner
- Brendan Sexton III as Kyle, a welder
- Johnny Ortiz as Busboy at the diner Jesse and Walter met
- Robert Forster as Ed Galbraith, a vacuum repairman who specializes in relocating people running from the law and giving them new identities, for a hefty fee
- Jonathan Banks as Mike Ehrmantraut, expert fixer, ruthless hitman, and former business partner of Jesse and Walter's
- Bryan Cranston as Walter White, legendary meth kingpin, and Jesse's former partner and high school chemistry teacher
- Todd Terry as SAC Ramey
- David Mattey as Clarence "Man Mountain"
- Julie Pearl as Suzanne Ericsen
- Simon Drobnik as a police officer from Better Call Saul
Vince Gilligan had the idea for El Camino during the final stages of filming the last season of Breaking Bad; he asked himself what would happen to Jesse Pinkman following the events of the Breaking Bad finale "Felina", wherein Jesse escaped from the neo-Nazis' compound after being rescued by Walter White. At the time of the conclusion of Breaking Bad, Gilligan offered two possible fates for Jesse, a more realistic one where he was caught by police a few miles from the compound, and a second, more optimistic one where "[Jesse] got away, and he's got a long road to recovery ahead… All these terrible things he's witnessed are going to scar him as well, but the romantic in me wants to believe that he gets away with it and moves to Alaska and has a peaceful life communing with nature." In the intervening years Gilligan had toyed with both approaches. Of the first, he has considered Jesse's arrest as the concluding scene for the work, but Gilligan's girlfriend Holly Rice told him that would be a terrible ending that fans would not appreciate, and scrapped it, sticking to the idea of Jesse escaping to Alaska.
Gillain had not told many others of this idea until near the tenth anniversary of Breaking Bad, when he started sharing the idea with former cast and crew members as a means to celebrate the milestone. Aaron Paul, who played Jesse, affirmed that Gilligan had contacted him around 2017, while Paul was starring in The Path, about plans for celebrating the tenth anniversary of Breaking Bad and hinted at something big, and Paul vowed that he would be eager to be involved with any idea Gilligan had to continue Jesse's character.
Gilligan believed that since El Camino was a coda to the series, it would only really appeal to Breaking Bad fans and would not be as enjoyable to those who had not watched the series. Unlike most of his work from The X-Files and Breaking Bad, when he worked with one or more co-writers, Gilligan opted to write the El Camino screenplay alone until he was ready to present it. Once of first elements he wrote was the contents of Jesse's letter to Brock, which Gilligan had planned on having read in voice-over while Jesse drove through Alaska; Paul stated of this letter: "It's heartbreaking, it's beautiful, just honest". However, during production, Gilligan felt it was better for the contents of the letter to remain a mystery and wasn't needed to conclude Jesse's story, and went with the alternate ending featuring Jane.
After affirming that Sony Pictures Television, which helped to produce Breaking Bad, was on board, Gilligan selectively shopped the film to a few potential distributors, and settled on Netflix and AMC due to their history with the show. Gilligan intended the film to have a theatrical release, a goal he had sought while filming Breaking Bad, which Netflix had been able to do with some of the show's season premieres in limited theatrical engagements.
The film was held in great secrecy from the pre-production stages, with cast and crew under tight restrictions about what they could say about their project. It was only near the start of filming, in November 2018, that rumors floated that a film continuation of Breaking Bad was in development, with Paul returning as Jesse. In a November 2018 interview, Bryan Cranston, who starred as Walter White, confirmed that a film was indeed in the works but said he had not seen a script, although he was interested in participating if Gilligan called for it.
While Gilligan has been involved with theatrical films before, El Camino is the first film he produced. The unspecified budget was stated to be more than the US$6 million that "Felina" cost to produce. The film was shot at a 2.39 widescreen aspect ratio using the Arri Alexa 65 camera to capture the work in a cinematic manner. Most of the filming occurred in Albuquerque around November 2018, under the working title Greenbrier. Compared to the pace they had used during Breaking Bad, when they would shoot six to eight pages of script a day, the pace for El Camino was more relaxed, with only one-and-a-half to three pages a day, with the overall shoot lasting 50 days. The larger budget and relaxed schedule allowed Gilligan to capture scenes outside of Albuquerque as well, something he wanted to do but was unable to during Breaking Bad.
Cranston does appear in the film; Cranston took two days off from his performance in the Broadway show Network in early January 2019 to fly to Albuquerque to shoot the short cameo scene in a diner, which was filled with only crew members and their families in order to keep the shot confidential. Paul and Cranston were ordered to avoid seeing each other off-set.
By the time local media made a connection between Greenbrier and Breaking Bad, filming had been mostly completed, according to Paul. Bob Odenkirk, who portrays Saul Goodman on Breaking Bad and its spinoff Better Call Saul, but was not involved with El Camino, stated about the project's secrecy, "I don't know what people know and don't know. I find it hard to believe you don't know it was shot. They did it. You know what I mean? How is that a secret? But it is. They've done an amazing job of keeping it a secret."
Formal announcement of a Breaking Bad film to be released by Netflix and AMC was made in February 2019. On August 24, 2019, Netflix began teasing El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie and released the film's first teaser trailer. In the days prior to its formal announcement, Netflix temporarily listed the film on its website, which was noticed by users before it was pulled. The title refers to Todd's Chevrolet El Camino that Jesse drives away with in "Felina".
Netflix released an announcement trailer of the film on August 24, 2019. A teaser premiered during the 71st Primetime Emmy Awards ceremony on September 22, 2019, while a full trailer was released on September 24, 2019.
El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie had its world premiere on October 7, 2019, at the Regency Village Theatre in Los Angeles. The film was released on October 11, 2019, on Netflix, with later airings scheduled on AMC. The film also had a limited theatrical release from October 11 to 13, in the United States.
On the day of El Camino's release, Robert Forster, who played Ed in both the series and film, died from complications with brain cancer, at the age of 78. Among other Hollywood tributes, the cast of Breaking Bad paid tribute to him.
On the review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 95% based on 81 reviews, with an average rating of 7.31/10. The website's critics consensus reads: "Entertaining if not essential, El Camino adds a satisfying belated coda to the Breaking Bad story – led by a career-best performance from Aaron Paul." Metacritic, which uses a weighted average, assigned the film a score of 72 out of 100 based on 31 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".
Steve Greene of IndieWire gave the film a "A–", saying: "The core of El Camino is made up of those returning players, but there are a few new faces to wrestle with as well. Through them, Gilligan asks the audience to once again set aside expectations and follow where they cross Jesse's journey. Though the specter of Jesse’s former partners haunt El Camino, Gilligan effectively holds the audience's attention to keep them focused on the present."
The BBC's Hugh Montgomery was less complimentary, giving the film a 1-star review: "What we get is a fugitive thriller without the thrills, and a character study without any character [...] And if television has recently been characterised as the ‘new cinema’ while cinema apparently infantilises itself with superhero movies and Disney remakes, then this gives lie to that narrative: certainly, it’s a franchise extension as lazy and vacuous as anything dreamt up on the big-screen."
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