I should probably start this review off with a disclaimer: I've always loved Denzel Washington
as an actor, and even though I haven't seen all of his movies, I can't think of a single one that I hate.
That being said, "The Book of Eli
" directed by the Hughes brothers is a thoroughly entertaining and delightfully original story set in the post apocalyptic world. It's not necessarily the appearance of the world or the reason for its destruction that are so new. In fact, the most refreshing aspect is the conflicting motivations of its main opposing forces.
Religious undertones are present in those motivations, but thankfully the film doesn't force feed them to you. The film focuses more on faith itself and seeks to show viewers the power of faith in a person's life. In this way the previews for the film do not do the plot true justice. It comes off more like an action movie, than a thoughtful tale with moments of intense action. Despite action scenes that are incredibly badass and exciting, blood and explosions are not the main focus of the story.
The Hughes' post apocalyptic world is very gray, and devoid of color. Small beams of light penetrate the heavy cloud cover to illuminate the seemingly infinite desert terrain. De-saturated colors really give the impression that nuclear war has destroyed the environment.
Denzel Washington plays Eli, a wandering traveler on a quest westward. He travels on his own, collecting meager supplies for survival, appreciating the simple things in life. His isolation is palpable in the first several minutes of the film which don't feature any speech, just environmental sounds.
Eli's one most important occupation is keeping his book safe from those who try to take it from him. It's not immediately clear what the book is, but it becomes more apparent as the narrative progresses, that Eli is carrying the only known copy of the Bible. According to him, a voice commanded him to bring this book westward until he finds the right place to share its message with people.
It's this voice that guides Eli on his spiritual journey. Early on it's easy to see Eli's immense faith in his quest aids him in fights, allowing him to fearlessly decimate whole groups of men that attack him at once. Shortly after being attacked by a gang of thieves in the desert, Eli finds his way to a settlement to restock on supplies.
The settlement's leader is a rather refined gentleman, by the name of Carnegie (Gary Oldman
). Even though Carnegie has a league of henchmen as his disposal, he doesn't have the same motives as the average crime boss.
He is on a search for literature, namely one important piece of literature. If you hadn't figured it out yet, Carnegie is after the very same book Eli has in his possession. Carnegie has been scattering men in all directions hoping to find it, because he knows the book's power to control the hearts and minds of men and women. He knows that with the Bible he can take over more territory and gain greater power.
Eli stumbles into Carnegie's bar, and the two cross paths. Aware that this literate tough man is someone of special interest, the boss tries to win Eli's favor so he can recruit him into his gang. He attempts to do this by sending the daughter of his blind lover Solara (Mila Kunis
) to seduce him. Eli is uninterested in her feminine wiles, however Solara is fascinated by this stranger and this book he possesses.
Image © Warner Bros
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Solara spills the beans about Eli's book which sends Carnegie after him. She escapes from captivity in the confusion following Eli into the wasteland. At first she is an unwelcome companion for Eli, but much like a shepherd of the weak, he can't help taking care of the girl and allowing her on his journey.
Eli teaches Solara about the Bible, about friendship, and about the value of faith. His faith guides him so strongly that he inspires the same in Solara. She aids him and supports him when he gets in trouble, to ensure the Bible does not fall into Carnegie's evil hands.
As Eli, a solitary servant of God, Denzel Washington shines. Washington shows us that underneath a hardened exterior, Eli is a man who truly loves his fellow man. Conversely, Gary Oldman plays a fantastic villain, more inclined to let his henchmen do his dirty work, while he sits back to reap the rewards.
Eli hopes to share the power of the Bible's good word, whereas Carnegie wants to use the Bible's ability to intimidate people into blind submission. It is this very basic battle between the forces of good and evil over the word of God that makes "The Book of Eli" so fascinating.
Probably my least favorite aspect of the film is Mila Kunis. Her character Solara is not convincingly naïve enough for a girl who was supposed to be raised during an era where people no longer read or study history.
"The Book of Eli" pleasantly surprised me in its originality and strong storyline. It features two tough characters of conflicting viewpoints guided by strong faith in their ideals, and some terrifically choreographed fight scenes.
My Grade: A
Story by Starpulse contributing writer Evan Crean
, a movie trivia guru and trailer addict with a practically photographic memory of actors and directors. Get a first look at the movies premiering each week, which ones will be worth your $10, which ones you should wait to rent and which ones aren't worth your time.