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  El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie The Perfect Getaway
Year: 2019
Director: Vince Gilligan
Stars: Aaron Paul, Jesse Plemons, Robert Forster, Matt Jones, Charles Baker, Scott McArthur, Scott Shepherd, Krysten Ritter, Tess Harper, Michael Bofshever, Larry Hankin, Kevin Rankin, Brendan Sexton III, Johnny Ortiz, Jonathan Banks, Bryan Cranston
Genre: Drama, ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Some time ago, Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) stood beside a river in the middle of a New Mexico nowhere and asked his associate Mike (Jonathan Banks) what he thought would be the best course of action to get away from this life of crime they were both mired in. Mike suggested that it would be most canny to escape to Alaska, if you really needed to start again, for it was the last frontier state in America, but Jesse would never know how true that advice would be after the trouble he was involved in was all over. Minutes after, he was speeding through the night in an El Camino car, laughing his head off maniacally for he could not believe his luck - his long nightmare was over!

Well, not quite, for we still had a couple of hours to go. Breaking Bad was a television series that turned into a global sensation, much as Game of Thrones would around the same time, but while that dragon fest ended in a manner that had many fans up in arms that it was not exactly what they wanted, the earlier drama was considered to have concluded just right. However, creator Vince Gilligan was not ready to leave this world of crime and went on to make a prequel series, Better Call Saul, centring around Bob Odenkirk's shady lawyer character, which if it was not as popular as its parent show, did make something different enough from it to justify its existence in its own right.

Which brought us to El Camino, a direct sequel taking off straight after the bullet-ridden finale of the main show, which now Walter White (Bryan Cranston) had reached his ultimate fate, followed the escape of his sidekick in much the same fashion as the series had, indeed, it resembled a feature-length TV special more than it did a movie. Despite that, it was released in selected theatres, mainly as a publicity stunt to drum up interest, but also, as its parent company Netflix was wont to do, to give fans a communal experience where they could immerse themselves in this world among likeminded audiences who wanted this return, six years later, to be a true event for themselves.

And for many of them, it really was, the whole feel of a Breaking Bad episode recreated with pinpoint accuracy, to their great satisfaction. However, for just as many it was a disappointment that never seemed as though it justified itself considering it told you very little that could not have been wrapped up with a message before the end credits of its predecessor's season finale. In truth, it came across less as Gilligan, Paul and company believing they had something essential to say, as if there was material that needed wrapping up from a series that had been more than adequate at doing so, and more like Netflix securing Gilligan's services and telling him, Better Call Saul is all very well, but what we want is more Breaking Bad, so as we're paying you a lot of money, give us what we want.

After all, Disney+ was breathing down their necks, and Netflix were finding that family-friendly service was going to snap up a lot of the streaming market apart from the adult-oriented (i.e. stuff with sex, violence and swearing), so they had better stake a claim to the grown up end of entertainment pretty sharpish. Back at El Camino, there were many nice touches, such as the return of some of the better known characters (in flashback, if necessary), co-star Robert Forster's perfect casting as a fixer (the film was released the day he died, poignantly), and some fair suspense sequences in a measured effort overall. There were the usual problems: the female characters were almost non-existent, three of them were prostitutes and two of them were dead, for all the time they had, and the calling out of macho bullshit in the shootout scene was not quite enough to atone, but mostly, there was a nagging feeling that Jesse had had his happy ending already, and this was merely overexplaining that. For all those reservations, it could have been worse, and if it did not advance it, it didn't sully the memories either. Music by Dave Porter.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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