January 17, 2010
Review - " The Book of Eli " - (in theaters) By Roland Hansen
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rays. Eli’s quest apparently not only grants him absolute resolution and purpose, but a degree of superhuman ability as well -
though he bleeds and needs food like any man, he’s wicked with a machete, has unerring aim with a gun, and is apparently
incapable of being hit by bullets event at point-blank range. Eli’s quest, at least at first, has detached him from the needs of
the present - he doesn’t interfere when passing by a couple being murdered by marauding bandits, telling himself to “stay on
All this changes when he enters a small town run by Carnegie (Oldman). Carnegie, like Eli, is old enough to remember the
world before the disaster, and knows that a Bible can bring enormous power to those who wield it. Once he finds out that Eli
has it, he sends his army of thugs (led by Ray Stevenson) after it. Also in the mix are Claudia, Carnegie’s long-suffering blind
concubine (Jennifer Beals) and her daughter Solara (Mila Kunis). Solara befriends Eli and eventually becomes his apprentice,
following him on his quest and trying to understand why the book is so important.
To critique Denzel on his performance would be pointless - the man comes in, does what he does, and does it well. Eli gives
off all the trademark Denzel notes - confidence, fatherly authority, and effortless charm - but always with a slight undertone of
both menace and craziness. You’re never sure if Eli really does hear voices, but he believes it, and that’s all that matters.
Gary Oldman, like Denzel, also does what he does, which is portray a villain at times both slimy and sympathetic. Carnegie’s
goals are actually laudable - he wants to use the Bible to bring back civilization and restore communities - but his means are
ruthless and his lust for power is transparent. Jennifer Beals doesn’t get to do much except look beautiful and be blind and
pitiful until a crucial sequence at the very end. Mila Kunis acquits herself very well in both dramatic sequences with Denzel (No
easy task) and the fight scenes, though she comes off a little too Valley Girl-ish for a chick born and raised in a
post-apocalyptic brutal frontier settlement.
The movie is all about faith. Not a specific kind of faith, necessarily, but faith in general. The animating force and drive people
need to get through the day and survive to the next, even if it’s just more of the same. The hope that things can and will get
better, and that you should do all you can to make the world a place worth living in, no matter how hard it gets. This principle
works on a subtextual level as well, as the Hughes Brothers ask you to have faith in the overall premise - as well as Denzel’s
typically awesome performance - and overlook the film’s rather big structural flaws. What bothers me is that the book itself is
invested with magical power, rather than Eli’s faith or belief in himself. Or perhaps he simply needed to lose the Bible in order
to realize where his power and faith really came from, as is often the case with stories like this. I love movies that can surprise
me with the ending but in Eli "the big reveal" was a cheat (I won't spoil it by telling you what it is).
In the end this is the story that doesn’t move.
There are a few nice moments, all of which
appear in the trailers. The pacing of the story
is long and slow. Doesn’t know if it wants to be
an action film or a philosophical message. As
a result it doesn’t do either well. "The Book of
Eli" was on my list of films to look forward to. I
wanted to like it. Denzel is the man, and Denzel
with a Sword had the potential to be awesome.
Unfortunately this movie played out like
watching a pretty cool painting mounted on the
wall. It looked nice but didn’t go anywhere. All
of the potential of this adventure was front
loaded and simply went downhill, or dragged
on from there. Even if you’re a huge Denzel
fan, I’d say wait for the DVD.
The Book of Eli
Directed by: Allen Hughes, Albert Hughes
Starring: Denzel Washington, Gary Oldman, Mila Kunis, Ray
Stevenson, Jennifer Beals, Evan Jones
Gary Oldman said "this is not just a book, it's a weapon aimed at
the hearts and minds of the weak and desperate. It will give us
control," - I've never heard a better explaination of just what the
Bible really is.
Eli (Denzel Washington) has been on a journey for 30 years,
walking west across America after a cataclysmic war that turned the
earth into a total wasteland. The world has become a lawless
civilization where people must kill or be killed. The barren roads
belong to gangs of cutthroats who rob and kill for water, a pair of
shoes, a lighter, or just for fun. Eli is a peaceful man who only acts
in self defense, and becomes a warrior with unbelievable killing
skills when he is challenged. After the war and the "Big Flash", Eli
was guided by a higher power to a hidden book and given the task
of protecting the book and taking it to its final destination. Eli
guards the book with his life, because he knows that the book is the
only hope that humanity has for its future.
As you might guess, the book Eli is carrying is the King James
Bible. He claims to have been commanded by a mysterious voice to
“go west” and bring the book where it’ll be safe, thirty years after a
war (provoked possibly by religious differences) and at least one
environmental disaster have ravaged the planet and sent
civilization back to pre-industrial times, with people wearing goggles
and sunglasses at all times to protect them from the sun’s deadly