(Spoiler alert: At most, only minor spoilers for “El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie” exist below, though click-through to full outside reviews at your own risk.)
Vince Gilligan’s “El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie” debuted Friday on Netflix, and the reviews are enough to make even the toughest meth-dealer smile.
For starters, Paul MacInnes of The Guardian gave “El Camino” four out of a possible five stars, writing “while it has both style and content, ‘El Camino’ feels more like a feature-length TV episode than an actual movie. It is too compact and fragmented to truly stand on its own, and viewers who have not seen the preceding 62 hours of ‘Breaking Bad’ will likely struggle to enjoy it.”
Where the Netflix release “excels” is in giving the Jesse Pinkman character (Aaron Paul) “closure,” MacInnes wrote. That note would be a common theme throughout the earliest-available reviews.
New York Times critic
He says Paul is “phenomenal,” and of Gilligan’s direction: “Scene for scene, the movie is a satisfying reminder of what ‘Breaking Bad’ did so well.”
But Poniewozik, a critic until the end, wondered: “I still have to ask: What did we need from ‘El Camino’?’
Rolling Stone’s Alan Sepinwall concurred with MacInnes’ four-of-five-stars rating.
In his spoiler-free and abbreviated review, Sepinwall calls lead actor Paul “charismatic and effectively haunted.”
“Some of the action here is thrilling, some of it is horrifying, and some plain hilarious,” he writes of the movie itself, which he’d go on to conclude is “one hell of an entertaining gift.” “And in ‘El Camino’s’ best moments, it’s all of those things at the same time.”
IndieWire writer Steve Greene calls “El Camino” an “impressive achievement.” For his headline adjective, Greene went with “riveting.”
Greene says the film’s 125-minute runtime is “brisk and propulsive.”
He ultimately grades it an “A-,” and concludes: “That this film can stand on its own, all while paying tribute to the show that helped birth it, is maybe the most impressive escape act of them all.”
Vox’s review is much more tepid than most.
There, Alissa Wilkinson gives “El Camino” three of five stars. Her main gripe is not an unfair or entirely unique one. Like Poniewozik, Wilkinson wonders who was actually clamoring for this sequel. After all, the “Breaking Bad” series finale didn’t stir up the level of discussion that say the “Sopranos” one did.
“The fun comes from seeing your favorite characters again, not finally resolving missing pieces that have tortured your sleep for six years,” she wrote of “El Camino.”
In his headline, Consequence of Sound critic Michael Roffman called the sequel movie an “affecting epilogue for ‘Breaking Bad’ fans.” He’d soon tout Gilligan’s “finesse” and ultimately says “El Camino” is “impressive.”
“There was never any doubt that Gilligan loves his characters, but goddamn does ‘El Camino’ bring that idea home,” he finds.
Of the film’s many flashbacks, Roffman writes: “In typical Gilligan fashion, he finds a palatable way to have the past fuel the present. Yet rather than stopping and starting every other scene, Gilligan keeps the pedal to the metal, grooving through memories both sordid and sweet as the action at hand continues undeterred.”
Over at ComicBookMovie.com, Josh Wilding really loved the movie, which is enjoying a limited theatrical release this weekend. His headline calls “El Camino” a “perfect epilogue to the greatest TV show of all-time.”
There was much more flowery language where that came from, including Wilding’s conclusion where he calls the film an “absolute masterpiece.”
Wilding, who gives the movie five out of five stars, writes that Paul “delivers a powerful, compelling performance which is undeniably awards worthy.”