This week I checked out The Book of Eli. Mostly because it rained all day Saturday. I went to a cheap theater and I had to buy my ticket at the concession stand. I honestly thought the dude was going to call me a moron for asking for a movie ticket at a popcorn stand.
THE PREMISE: The world is completely screwed up after yet another war. Everything is all dusty and rotten. Eli (Denzel Washington) travels west protecting the very last bible. This is not a spoiler as the directors have openly stated that its a bible in interviews. Eli slices people up as he travels to put the book in the right hands. He comes across a bad guy named Carnegie (Gary Oldman) who wants to use it to manipulate people into thinking he's a prophet of some sort. Eli has way too many karate moves and weapons training for Carnegie to handle though. Perhaps Carnegie should invest in finding the last Torah.
THE AESTHETICS: The writing is pretty weak. The action sequences don't even seem all that inspired. The movie would've fallen flat on its face if it didn't have the A-List cast it did. Surprise appearances by Tom Waits and Malcom McDowell make it all the more enjoyable. The story develops better as it moves along. It spent a lot of time stumbling across a balance bean but then had a fantastic dismount. The dismount came with a clever twist and a conclusion most audiences can get behind. The Hughes Brothers direct their first movie since 2001's From Hell. They sure did a better job here then with that mess. There's a great gun battle similar to the single take scene in Children of Men (dir. Alfonso Cuaron, 2006). Like I said, while the film fumbles around for the first half, it all starts to blend together well towards the conclusion.
THE SUBTEXT: In times of devastation, faith can be the greatest survival tool. Faith fuels Eli and it makes him nearly indestructible. The film was centered around this idea of something so intangible being the greatest resource. The Hughes Brothers get that the bible is already filled with bloody content. They have no problem taking liberties with the violence in their film. There's no sense of hypocrisy when sending out this message of faith and its not forced. Faith is a notion worth dying for and the Book of Eli ups the ante by saying it is also something worth killing for as Eli slashes his way in search of a promise land.
THE FINAL WORD: The cast is engaging and the action scenes are serviceable enough to be called entertainment. No matter what your view on religion, the film gives you a lot to think about. Its not a film you should run out and see but it's definitely a film you want to see some day and have an opinion on. My grade: B.
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