Movie Reviewed: The Book of Eli
Directed By: The Hughes Brothers
Starring: Denzel Washington ("Eli), Mila Kunis ("Solara"), Gary Oldman ("Carnegie"), Malcolm McDowell ("Lombardi"), Michal Gambon ("George"), Jennifer Beals ("Claudia")
Rated: R for some brutal violence and language
Runtime: 118 minutes
Studio: Warner Bros. Pictures
The end of the world seems to be a popular theme these days. With the rotten economy, the never ending wars, and the general fear of change, Hollywood must feel a need to sensitize the masses with “worse case scenario” programming. First there was “2012”, then “The Road” and now, arguably the best of the bunch, “The Book of Eli.”
Box office super trooper, Denzel Washington turns action warrior for his latest film, “The Book of Eli”, a strange yet recognizable tale of a man on a mission. Eli ( Denzel Washington) travels solo, through the devastated dregs of a once thriving America, to save the last copy of the Bible.
Like David Carradine in the 1970’s television show Kung Fu, Washington’s Eli is as peaceful as a monk, when he isn’t beating up the bad guys. Eli’s personality is a combination of the characters from “Kung Fu”, “Mad Max”, “Blade”, and “The Road” all rolled into one powerful force.
The energy and tone of the film “The Book of Eli” seems to originate from movies like “Sin City”, “Mad Max”, “The Road“ and “Blade” to name just a few; which makes for a wild and wonderful walk down “the clear influence of other movies” lane. Most every segment of “The Book of Eli” is a montage of familiarity ; a blatant reminder of films we know , and sometimes love.
Washington owns Eli, and is ruggedly handsome, cool and cunning as a man headed West. For most of the journey why Eli must head West is not clear, and it doesn’t matter because travel in any direction of this wasteland of a landscape looks bleak. Along the way Eli encounters a host of low life survivors of the apocalyptic event that demolished the earth we know today. Few characters in the film have knowledge of “before”; which evidently means “before the world was destroyed and reincarnated into a super hell.” Now the goal of the average human being is to attempt to survive the mayhem in this new land where people rob, rape, kill and eat each other for folly. Why, in these types of films, do only the indecent survive?
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Eli happens upon a town full of folks that look like extras in the film “Escape from New York” only dustier and has a “Showdown At The Okay Corral” with several troublemaking ruffians. When various villains try to hijack Washington he fights just like Wesley Snipes in “Blade”. Eli’s battle weapons consist mainly of very large, heavy, dangerous looking machete type knives. Eli battles groups of enemies with the grace and ease of a black belt in karate, making the action scenes in “The Book of Eli” fast, exciting and at times graphic and gory.
Carnegie played wickedly by Gary Oldman is the authority in the shanty town because of his access to water and thus, wealth. Beautiful and talented Jennifer Beals barely uses her theatrical skill sets as Claudia, Carnegie’s blind, battered and abused female companion. Carnegie’s makeshift army , a group of Neanderthal, illiterate, hoods for hire, are charged to search for a book (and whatever else they can take from the unsuspecting) that Carnegie believes he must possess in order to influence those who have survived. Claudia’s daughter, Solaris, is amazed with Eli and believes following him is the best way to escape her putrid life as one of Carnegie’s minions.
The film has a dark hue, like the “The Road,” and most” Batman” films. One too many attempted rapes and assault scenes serve up a “Last House on the Left” type evil, but not as graphic. And fortunately, “The Book of Eli” has a noble goal; survival for Eli, Solaris and the Bible.
The film is more mysterious than preachy, and action packed, in a quirky entertaining way. With a strong, moralistic finish, “The Book of Eli” is a solid action adventure, and worth the price of admission. But this is not to be mistaken as entertainment for the family or children , just because The Bible is the book in question. Denzel Washington fans should prepare to enjoy this character, the quest, and warfare for “The Book of Eli” is a “larger than life” made for the “big screen” affair. Amen.