El Camino by Vince Gilligan Analysis

A Breaking Bad Movie

When Breaking Bad ended in 2013, Vince Gilligan left us with a few open-ended questions. “What happened to Jesse afterwards?” was not one of them – his journey with Walter White was not about the ending, it was about the journey.

Yet, when I heard that Vince Gilligan was making a sequel about Jesse Pinkman’s fate, I was thrilled, to say the least. Not because I cared about Jesse, but because Gilligan is one of my top 3 most favourite directors. Actually, top 2. Well, since Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s failure with “Wild Pear Tree”, Mr.Gilligan is my most favourite director. A kind that you’d queue up for hours and blindly throw your money at.

Now, the 2 hours of El Camino is over and I am not as enthusiastic as before.

El Camino is a finely directed and produced movie. It is thoroughly well-written, too. Murad argues that it does not contribute to the overall story line, but maybe it was never about the story line. I could easily write a dozen of very decent quotes from El Camino. People from all walks of life could talk about Jesse’s situation and decisions for hours. And that is the art that Gilligan delivers, which he usually magnificently weaves into a superb story line. So, no matter how perfect, the story line has always been secondary. Therefore, it could very well be that Gilligan didn’t seek to contribute to the overall story with El Camino, hence why he failed in that department (read Murad’s opinion on why and how he failed).

But this failure was not what made me uncomfortable watching Jesse driving off in Alaska and the credits rolling.

Let me go back to saying that Vince Gilligan is my favourite director and I adore his work like no one else’s. Every time I say this, tho, I pause for a second and think about Hancock.

Until now, that feature was his only mediocre work in the past two decades. I gave him the benefit of the doubt, as he was not the one who wrote the original script, it was his first feature, etc. But El Camino completed “the Gilligan puzzle” for me.

Vince Gilligan has a peculiar story-telling technique. He sets up the scene carefully and sweats every detail, gives us insight into the characters’ emotional situation, provides the necessary background (isn’t he big on flashbacks), and then triggers the action. No wonder that action ends up making perfect sense and leaving a lasting impact. And apart from being a genius writer and a skillful director, he needs one essential ingredient to achieve these – time. Which he usually has plenty of. Take Better Call Saul – four seasons in, and it is only just stepping into what the story is really about. Long story short, it is Gilligan’s signature to roll a slow introduction into the action.

He does not have that luxury in a feature film.

If you tried to elevator-pitch Breaking Bad, it would have sounded mediocre at best. Unlike Inception, Slumdog Millionaire, Catch Me If You Can, et. al. Yet, Breaking Bad is a masterpiece that made a bold mark in the history of cinematography. This paradox is rooted in the fact that its storyline is secondary. Thinking of El Camino, that is the one phrase that comes to my mind – an elevator pitch of upcoming series.

Murad said that El Camino felt like three movies squashed into one. I claim that each one of those three could be made into a season, especially considering Gilligan’s narration techniques. That’s exactly what I watched in those 2 hours of Netflixing – an abridged supercut of 3 seasons of a brilliant series that will never exist.

Going back to “the Gilligan puzzle” – the missing piece is his elevator-pitching skills.

Now that Jesse Pinkman sorted his vacuum cleaner, are we back to Saul Goodman’s path to his Hoover MaxExtract 60? I certainly hope so, and I want to see my favourite director back at doing what he does the best.

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