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In the case of movies preying on sentiment, one should ask oneself if the production is able to offer anything to people without emotional load with the original work. It seems that the mere desire to satisfy the fans is a little to less to produce the full-length movie.

Breaking Bad is a TV series of all time for many. So Vince Gilligan in El Camino faced an extremely difficult task of satisfying the awakened needs of fans and creating something that would also be attractive to those unfamiliar with the show.

No one needs to be explained that films and TV shows are two different entities. Mergers of one and the other are more often used to promote the latter or to fill in the gaps in the narrative, than to create a new quality or creative use of the character and the presented world.

The case of El Camino is similar. The series has meticulously built the psychological portrait of its characters for 5 seasons (Walter White’s long path to violence, Walter-Jesse relationship on the master-student axis, father-son, and these are, of course, only two examples from many), leading to a mastery of – it would seem –  simple cause and effect narrative and a logical change slowly taking place inside the characters. Meanwhile, the film doesn’t have time for this.

Here, the change is already made, the film can only play on memories and keep throwing flashbacks to the viewer to give the impression of dynamism of the internal tensions of the hero – tensions that in reality do not exist. Trauma disappears as soon as it appears and even the plot of revenge – referring to the western, but it comes out to more funny than seriously – is stiff and artificial.

Although Gilligan is more mature than ever before and can build his narratives in a slow pace, focusing on one character (in this sense El Camino is closer to Better Call Saul than Breaking Bad), the movie presents itself sooner as an afterimage of the series – and it is an afterimage in fact, because it tells the story of Jesse Pinkman taking place immediately after the culmination of the fifth season – than independent production.

And it wouldn’t be a problem if it wasn’t a feature film. In addition, a film that is strongly embedded in the genre. While the series uses many genres, telling many stories, the film by the American creator is definitely more monochrome. This does not mean, of course, that one cannot have fun watching the full-length work of Gilligan, but without a doubt it is more pleasant with the context of the series. For a viewer without a sentimental load, El Camino will be just a mediocre and not particularly engaging example of escape cinema.

There is no point deluding ourselves – Gilligan is a better creator of TV series than film. Perhaps a better solution (financially and in the context of attractiveness of production) would be producing two special episodes, actually kept in the convention, than trying to adapt to a formula that requires strict order and binds the director’s hands. El Camino lacked the spirit of Breaking Bad – the spirit that was based on fantastic chemistry of the crew, improvisation and pure joy of working together.

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Mateusz Tarwacki

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