The Book of Eli (2.5 of 4)

The Book of Eli is a post-apocalyptic movie that doesn’t know to which genre it belongs. The atmosphere ripped causing a global fire which covered the world in ash and rubble and scorched everything and killed most of the planet’s living creatures and vegetation. But this actually is unclear. What we know (for sure) is that there are small pockets of human life that have resorted to extreme violence and cannibalism to survive. Also there is only one copy of the Bible left anywhere.

Denzel Washington plays Eli, a God-fearing yet merciless travelling warrior, who follows the commands of God that he alone audibly hears. What does it tell him? Take the Bible west, where it will be safe. . . at the Alcatraz Island Prison.

This sounds like a fascinating plot to me. If the story would take the above premise and start the movie there  (“Okay, go!”)  it would have been better. But it doesn’t, instead it adds a conflict that makes this action movie into something on the verge of either heretical ideology or poor direction. I hope it’s simply the latter.

The conflict comes in the form of Gary Oldman who plays Carnegie, the power-thirsty leader of a gang of killer post-apocalyptic punk-metal band members. Scary! He wants to get his hands on the Holy Book because he sees it as a tool of manipulation. Carnegie says at one point:

“IT’S NOT A ****ING’ BOOK! IT’S A WEAPON! A weapon aimed right at the hearts and minds of the weak and the desperate. It will give us control of them. If we want to rule more than one small, ****in’ town, we have to have it. People will come from all over, they’ll do exactly what I tell ’em if the words are from the book. It’s happened before and it’ll happen again. All we need is that book.”

Well, there you have it. My frustration with the movie’s story comes from this exact sentiment of Carnegie’s: the Bible’s teachings can be completely disregarded. What it says, means nothing to Carnegie. Only what it can do for him via its spiritual magic. Eli at one point in the film says something like: “I spent so much time protecting the book, that I forgot to live by what it taught.” That’s a bingo, Eli. And that’s the problem that Carnegie had all along too. He apparently “grew up with it.” Therefore knowing its power.  So, both the hero and the villain are learning the same thing? Or just teaching us as an audience the same thing?

I’m not sure.

Mila Kunis also plays as Solara, a sidekick (action movie). And she’s about as important to the film’s story as my mentioning her here. Editing Note: She does provide Eli an opportunity to display his faith through prayer, I’ll give her that. 

The acting credits attached to the film are rather impressive. The two leads are film to film consistently good actors, but are given too little shared screen time. I’ve only seen one other Hughes brothers film, From Hell. Which is the worst Johnny Depp you can find. These two pieces of information bring me to the conclusion that the Hughes brothers, have no idea what they’re doing with their casts. 

The Book of Eli has a good premise, and certainly something to discuss about Carnegie’s understanding of what the Bible is and does, but overall the movie is substandard. The transitions are sloppy, the plot is distracted and the last twist is too big (and unnecessary) a leap of faith for my tastes.    

Best moment silhouette sword fight:

  1. Great review.

    • July 22nd, 2010

    My ending would have been more along the lines of:

    Eli gets the book to the west and gives it to a man who is a great communicator. Then the man would opening the Bible to Matthew 5 and read:

    Blessed are the poor in spirit for thiers is the kingdom of heaven.
    Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
    Blessed are the meek for they will inherit the earth.
    Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
    Blessed are teh merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
    Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
    Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.

    Then it would cut to Solara at the Eli stone being told she can stay. And then she would say no and leave.

    Just an idea….

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