I’m not sure if you’re like me or not but there will always be a small part of me who remembers Bryan Cranston as Hal, the dad, from Malcolm in the Middle. Not always necessarily making the smartest of choices, but still meaning well, nonetheless. Though in January of 2008, all of that changed. For me, personally, It’s always been a fascination of mine to see notoriously comedic actors take on dark or dramatic roles. Whether you’re talking about Jim Carrey in Man on the Moon or The Number 23. Steve Carrell in Foxcatcher or Vice. Even Adam Sandler in Punch Drunk Love and the upcoming, Uncut Gems. There is something special to be said about actors who can disappear into roles. When you see an actor in the vein of comedy, do a dramatic role, it gives you a whole new appreciation for them. Such is the case for Cranston in Breaking Bad. Completely transforming himself into Walter White, aka Heisenberg.
Breaking Bad ran successfully for five seasons and created a cultural juggernaut in the process. Cranston teamed up with Aaron Paul to go from high school teacher to meth dealer, and eventually empire king. When creator, Vince Gilligan, closed the empire in 2013, many agreed that the series ended perfectly for its two leading men in Paul and Cranston. Though, Gilligan felt differently, and returns alongside Paul for the sequel film to the series in El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie. Camino tells the story of Jesse Pinkman (Paul)’s journey out of captivity into a fresh start. Much like its television series counterpart, Pinkman goes through remarkable character development in the short duration of the film. Masterfully capturing the emotion of PTSD from his enslavement to his desperation of a new start.
For the first half of the film, a dual narrative is offered to viewers. This duality allows the narrative to flesh out Jesse’s captivity a bit more and the time he spent with his captor, Todd Alquist (Jesse Plemons). Even for how little viewers spend with Plemons, he still delivers a fantastic performance. Most certainly leaving a lasting impression. While the flashbacks serve the narrative extraordinarily well, diving deep into the PTSD Jesse is feeling – they fizzle out by the halfway mark of the film. Seemingly to fade off into the distance. One more flashback comes in the very last few moments but honestly feels more like fan service than actual narrative.
The series as a whole allotted Paul to play a character deeper than cliché drug pushers or thug; but sincerely fleshed him out over the years. Camino strongly carries in that tradition. While there are a significant number of individuals who return from the original series, viewers spend the majority of their time with Paul. With good merit too, Paul delivers a phenomenal performance. With every frame of brokenness, desperation and finally peace – Paul is given so much to work with in the short time span. His performance is never wasted. That credit goes to Paul’s performance and ability to disappear into Pinkman, but also the writing of Gilligan. Masterfully creating an engaging story of survival. El Camino is bold and unsettling in portion, but completely fearless as a whole.
Overall, El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie, is both a perfect companion and stand-alone to the Breaking Bad television series. The narrative focuses largely on Aaron Paul’s Jesse Pinkman. Though multiple significant characters from Breaking Bad make their return, it’s Paul who delivers a completely encompassing performance. Paul is a force to be reckoned with in this movie. Writer-Director, Vince Gilligan, takes his signature character development and beautifully ushers it into the cinema. With a short duration, Gilligan and Paul manage to embrace desperation, PTSD, and joy with utter grace and beauty. The duality of script and acting is an absolute glorious marriage. The narrative is strong, for the most part, the front half of the movie weaves in and out between past and present. Presenting a dual narrative that largely fades from existence by the film’s halfway point. El Camino is bold, unsettling and completely fearless – absolutely worth every second of your time.
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