Sunday, September 12, 2010

Film Review--"The Book of Eli"

starring Denzel Washington, Gary Oldman, Mila Kunis, Ray Stevenson, Jennifer Beals, and Lloyd Bridges as The Beav.

In a world reduced to ashes by an unnamed apocalypse, one man named Eli (Washington) wanders.  He carries with him a book that he believes vital to the continuation of human society.  When he arrives in a town run by a thug boss (Oldman), said boss attempts to seduce him with a young girl (Kunis) in order to obtain this book.  But Eli is prepared to fight, kill, and die in order to protect it.

Well, where to start?  I'm probably not giving away many spoilers for anyone who has more than a surface level understanding of this film, but just in case you want to preserve every single possible chance at a surprise, stop reading now.

There.  During the first twenty minutes of the film, I noticed something.  Denzel Washington's character was behaving like an Old Testament prophet wandering in the desert.  Sure, it's a blood-soaked desert.  All of your typical post-apocalyptic tropes are there: only the strong are surviving and they are doing so by preying on the weak, women are just there to be raped, and your only real hope is to get in with a collective of sorts and try to survive with them.  In other words, not unlike the Old Testament days.
I think you can see where I'm going with this.  "The book" is The Bible.  What was really interesting, though, were the disparate views presented on The Bible, views that parallel our current society.  Eli believes he was spiritually chosen to carry The Bible and to bring it to people who will help humanity to rise up out of the ashes and better themselves.  Gary Oldman's mob boss character wants The Bible because he sees it as the ultimate weapon.  In the right (or really the wrong) hands, the book can be used to manipulate and control.
That is a fantastic premise.  Too bad the follow through is so lackluster.  Everything else sort of devolves into a by-the-numbers thriller set against a post-apocalyptic landscape.  I'm willing to bet that most discriminating viewers will be able to see the so-called "twists" coming.  Speaking of the apocalypse, the event that lead to the end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it is never truly explained.  I can understand wanting to keep it deliberately vague, but at times there are references that distinctly imply all-out nuclear war.  If that really is the case, then The Book of Eli is not even close to depicting how grim the reality of the aftermath would probably be.  And that's saying something.
This could have been better.

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