Netflix's 'Breaking Bad' movie isn't anything to gush over, but diehard fans of the show will enjoy it anyway

Netflix/AMCAaron Paul will make you fall in love with him all over again in ‘El Camino.’

  • Warning: There are mild spoilers ahead for “El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie.
  • Aaron Paul reprises his role as Jesse Pinkman in the sequel to AMC’s “Breaking Bad” TV series that starts off right where the show ended.
  • This is one for fans. You’ll need to watch the show to understand or else you’ll be confused.
  • While it feels like a big reunion filled with cameos and nods to the show, too many flashbacks and time in an apartment slow down the two-hour adventure.
  • Fans will be happy to have some closure to Pinkman’s story.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Netflix’s much-hyped “Breaking Bad” movie, “El Camino,” is officially available on the streaming service. The verdict? It’s just OK.

Though it has the look and feel of the “Breaking Bad” universe, it’s definitely not better than the entire final season of the AMC series. It moves slow for its first hour and never has too many action scenes or shocking moments – a staple of the series.

The film picks right up where the five-season AMC series ended in 2013 with Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) fleeing from the white supremacists who held him hostage in a cage to make meth for them.

Was Jesse ever caught? Did he turn himself in? If you’re a big fan of the series, you’ll definitely want to tune in for the answers to those questions and a few surprises from familiar faces throughout the two-hour movie. Though it comes to a satisfying conclusion, make sure to temper your expectations if you’re hoping for too much from this continuation of the series.

What to know: This is a Netflix movie from the original ‘Breaking Bad’ creator Vince Gilligan and with a lot of cameos from previous stars

El camino premiere aaron paul vince gilliganAxelle/Bauer-Griffin/Getty ImagesAaron Paul and Vince Gilligan pose with the classic El Camino Jesse flees in at the end of ‘Breaking Bad.’

Gilligan returned to write and direct the “Breaking Bad” movie in secret since 2018, so it’s in good hands. In addition to Paul, a lot of “Breaking Bad” favourites return for cameos. I won’t spoil them all here, but Jonathan Banks, who played fan-favourite Mike, confirmed his appearance in the film at the 2019 Emmys. If you loved the original show, you’ll want to tune in just to see who shows up.


Read more:
Everything you need to know about “El Camino”

Do I need to watch ‘Breaking Bad’ to understand this movie? Yes.

Jesse breaking bad waltAMC‘Breaking Bad’ ended its six-year run on AMC in 2013. If you haven’t tuned into it since then or have at least watched the show’s final few episodes, you’re going to be massively confused. Be sure to rewatch a few crucial moments of the series along with the finale before streaming ‘El Camino.’

There are so many references and small allusions to the series that if you haven’t given it a watch in years, you may be a bit confused. As Gilligan said in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, they “don’t slow down to explain things to a non-‘Breaking Bad’ audience.” You’re either along for this ride or you’re getting left in the dust.


Read more:
17 essential ‘Breaking Bad’ episodes to watch before the movie drops on Netflix

What’s hot: Aaron Paul gives a great performance, the cinematography is just as good as you remember from the original show, and diehard fans will be happy to go down memory lane and get closure

“El Camino” feels like a giant reunion party, which may be enough to keep most “Breaking Bad” fans satisfied. It’s a rotating door of announced and surprise cameos for two hours right from the film’s start.

Big fans of the series will be watching, and surely pausing moments on screen, as they keep an eye out for any references and Easter eggs sprinkled throughout to the original series. One cameo during the film’s final 15 minutes will be its most-talked-about moment.

Read more:

12 ‘Breaking Bad’ stars who returned for Netflix’s sequel movie ‘El Camino’

Aaron paul el camino breaking bad movieNetflix/AMCSo much of Paul’s performance is in his face and the looks he gives as he returns to reality after being locked up for months.

Paul is the heart and soul of “El Camino.” Heavily affected by PTSD after being locked up in a cage for six months by white supremacists, your heart will crumble at moments for Pinkman as he relives some of the trauma of being locked up and imprisoned. If it wasn’t for Paul’s captivating and nuanced emotional performance, “El Camino” would be a bit of a bore until its final half-hour when he confronts some people from his past for the movie’s biggest moment.

“El Camino” is a film that’s better to be watched with other fans of the series than alone. I reviewed the movie with a colleague (and fellow “Breaking Bad” fan) and about 10 others in a small New York City screening room on Thursday afternoon. Any time a small reference was seen on screen to a previous season of the show or someone called out a version of Jesse’s signature line (“Yo, b—–“), we would nod in acknowledgment, giggle, or point it out to one another.

What’s not: Too much time is spent in flashbacks and with Jesse in an apartment.
The music montages aren’t as strong as the original show. There aren’t any one-liners you’ll be repeating for days and months after watching. There are a few cameos you may be anticipating that never happen.

El camino breaking bad movie badger skinny pete jesseNetflixMatt Jones and Charles Baker in ‘El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie.’ Part of the problem with ‘El Camino’ is that this is so far removed from the end of ‘Breaking Bad,’ that you’ll definitely have expectations of what you want this film to deliver. You’ll have to continue that fan fiction on your own.

“El Camino” is a reunion party for a lot of the “Breaking Bad” cast, including Matt Jones and Charles Baker seen above, but a few important characters to Jesse’s story don’t show up.

Some fans may find that to be a big bummer. The biggest one of all is that fan-favourite Huell doesn’t get any time on screen. That’s especially odd since the side character has been teased in marketing for the film, making it seem like he was a safe bet to see in the film. Sorry, that’s not the case.

Instead of some beloved favourites, the film adds in a few characters the movie tries to retroactively say existed in the “Breaking Bad” universe. Gilligan has done a much better job at writing in characters and making connections in the past than this.

But fans may not care. They may be so enthralled with cameos and callbacks to the original series, that they may not even recognise right away the majority of the film doesn’t have that exciting of a premise. “El Camino” is really just about Jesse trying to collect enough money to escape his home in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and put his past behind him.

If that upsets you to hear, throw away any expectations you had for this film.

As a pretty big “Breaking Bad” fan, I thought Pinkman was going to try and take out anyone else who wronged him or make amends with Walter White’s family, his ex-girlfriend’s child Brock, and have some face time with Huell, who helped swipe a ricin-laced cigarette off of him during the show’s final season. I imagine many fans may have some of those same expectations.

You get a little bit of that, but you get a sense very early on that this is not going to be any sort of revenge thriller. Jesse’s told he can never put things right, no matter how much he wants to do so. And it’s that train of thought which influences Pinkman’s character throughout the film.

Walt jesse breaking bad cookingAMCOne of the staples of the original ‘Breaking Bad’ series are the well-choreographed music montages. Aside from one really cool shot looking down at an apartment layout from overhead, there aren’t any that are memorable in ‘El Camino.’

In addition, “Breaking Bad” fans are probably waiting for the next big music montage to fall in love with, but they’re going to have to keep waiting for “Better Call Saul” to return to AMC next year to get one. As good as the cinematography of “El Camino” is, none of the music choices ever stand out as much as anything that ever appeared on the AMC series.

Other than that, one of “El Camino’s” biggest flaws is that it spends too much time in the past. Does anyone need to see more of Jesse being tortured during his six-month stay with the white supremacists? Do we need to see him running errands with Todd (Jesse Plemons)? The movie spends so much time with Jesse in the past and simultaneously at an apartment searching for something important to the plot that an hour of the film goes by. You’re left wondering why you’re spending so much time in a world where you know how things turned out when you just want to see what will become of Jesse in the present and future.

“Better Call Saul,” Gilligan’s successful “Breaking Bad” spinoff, works so well because instead of giving us flashes of moments we’ve already seen, it teases black-and-white sequences from Saul’s mysterious future as a Cinnabon employee. The entire movie takes place in the past while teasing bits about the future, all moments that are new and fresh that we’ve never seen on “Breaking Bad.”

The problem with the “El Camino” flashbacks is that they’re not super surprising because there are no stakes. When Jesse draws a gun on someone, we’re not worried about the fate of the character because we already know what happens to them later in the “Breaking Bad” universe.

Overall: This movie is made with a lot of love for the fans, but it’s not for anyone new to the series

El camino breaking bad movie jesseNetflixFans will get the closure they have been looking for with Aaron Paul’s character in ‘El Camino.’

No one asked for a “Breaking Bad” movie (except for maybe superfan Warren Buffet), and frankly, six years after the end of the AMC series, we didn’t need one. AMC already rolled the dice with a spinoff based around quick-witted Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk) and surprised everyone with a show that may even be better than the original.

Could they do it again with “El Camino”? Yes and no. Fans are undoubtedly going to tune in to see what became of Walter White’s former chemistry student turned meth cook and be satisfied to have some closure. But “El Camino” doesn’t have a compelling enough story to be one that will be watched over and over again like Gilligan’s original series.

Grade: C+

“El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie” is streaming now on Netflix. You can watch a trailer for it below.

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