Movie Review: The Book of Eli
It seems that Hollywood is becoming increasingly interested in the apocalypse. I, for one, have always been fascinated by the way each filmmaker envisions the world ending and what it will look like afterward. The post-apocalyptic genre is one of my favorites, and I have welcomed the recent influx of additions to the genre.
I tend to group post-apocalyptic films into one of two categories: the depressingly dark (The Road, Children of Men) and the dumb fun (Doomsday, Escape from New York). The Book of Eli falls somewhere between the two. It combines some traditional post-apocalyptic movie elements like biker gangs, armored vehicles, dreadlocks and funky goggles with the Western archetype of ghost towns, bar fights and outlaws while also touching on the spiritually engaging themes of faith, war and re-creation.
Denzel Washington stars as Eli, which is basically a grey bearded, samurai sword wielding, oft-silhouetted version of himself. He is walking across the ash-covered United States from east to west. Eli is a man on a mission, but he doesn’t really seem to be in too big of a hurry. Or maybe it was just the slow-motion that made it seem like that? Either way, he has really no evidence of a particular destination in mind. He is walking simply by feel, by faith. All is going well until he runs into a sadistic, wrinkly-chinned dictator played by Gary Oldman. Oldman finds out that Eli possesses the last Bible on Earth, and he wants it. Bad. Unfortunately for Oldman and his henchmen, Eli is a professional ass-kicker who will stop at nothing until he gets his Bible to the West Coast.
Director siblings the Hughes Brothers seem to have a firm grasp of the world they wanted to create for their film. They take a scenery consisting of nothing but ashy grey tones and add enough depth to make it strangely beautiful, but they do seem a bit overly infatuated with their slow-motion, zooming close-ups and rotating camera shots.
The big “twist” in the film isn’t too hard to figure out if you are at least half-assed paying attention, but the telegraphed plot twist really doesn’t take away from the overall impact of the story. The script also features some clever pop-culture references as Eli tries to explain the “old world” to Mila Kunis, who shows some nice range here as the vulnerable, yet spunky daughter of Oldman’s love slave. She becomes Eli’s companion after she realizes that she would probably be safer on the road with Eli than under the rule of Oldman’s character.
Whereas Avatar is really no more than a sci-fi Western, The Book of Eli is basically a Western that takes place in a post-apocalyptic wasteland. We haven’t seen a lot of big-time Westerns at the cinemas lately, but the success and quality of these movies proves that the genre’s influence is still alive and well.
RIYL: The Road, 3:10 to Yuma, Escape from New York, I Am Legend.