The Book of Eli
As a general rule I try to avoid reading reviews for films I am interested in until after I have seen the film for myself. Once and a while, as was the case with The Hughes Brothers latest film, The Book of Eli, I will scan a few reviews to see what the general consensus is. Unfortunately, The Book of Eli has been scoring very poorly with both critics and bloggers. I am not sure why the reviews are so harsh? Personally, I found The Book of Eli to be far more engaging than most give it credit.
At some point in the future a war is fought and it serves as the catalyst for the apocalypse. The who and how are not important, all you need to know is that a "white light" engulf the world and everything collapses into a anarchic state. Eli (Denzel Washington) is one of the few people on earth who remembers what life was like before the "big flash." He has spent the last 30 years walking west scrounging for food while trying to avoid both hijackers and cannibals along the way. Eli’s travels take him to a town in where a man named Carnegie (Gary Oldman) rules with an iron fist. Carnegie owns everything in the town including his blind lover Claudia (Jennifer Beals) and her daughter, Solara (Mila Kunis).
Despite being as wealthy as a person can be in a post-apocalypse world, Carnegie knows that he can be overthrown at any minute. So he desperately searches for the one thing that can secure his reign…the Bible. During the war, all copies of the Bible were burned as a strategic measure to ensure that no one would be inspired to rise up against the new world order. Carnegie knows, that by using the Bible, he will able to come up with the rhetoric he needs to give his people hope. Not hope in God mind you, but hope in the God that Carnegie sees himself as being. Once Carnegie realize that Eli has the last known copy of the Bible in his possession, Carnegie is determined to get his hands on it by any means necessary, even if this means prostituting Solara, to get it.
The Book of Eli is an even mix of action and religious discourse. While the stylized action sequences offer many enjoyable moments, it the film’s approach to religion that keeps the film interesting. The Book of Eli is not a preachy movie, but it does not shy away from the topic either. Although the religious symbolism is not subtle, especially towards the end, it is never hinders the tale. Mainly because a lot of the things mention in the film are relevant today. Mankind's obsession with technology and excess superseeding our faith in a higher being or each other for that matter. If you really think about it, having the Bible as the ultimate source of strength in a devastated world is not far fetch at all. Just look at the coverage of the earthquake in Haiti for example, a lot of the things currently going on in Haiti echo some of the stuff in this film. Yet unwavering religious faith has given many of the Haitian people the strength they need to go on despite the awful circumstances.
One of the questions that the film poses is whether the Bible can be used for evil just as easy as it can beckon for good? Carnegie knows the power of the Bible's words and formulates how to use it for his advantage. The majority of Carnegie’s men, including right-hand man Redridge (Ray Stevenson), constantly question why all the fuss over a mere book. Yet in a land where the majority of the population cannot read or write, knowledge of words is far more valuable a tool than anything else Carnegie can offer. The idea of the Bible as a weapon, let alone an evil one, is an interesting idea to ponder.
I suspect the aspect of the film that will really divide audiences is the twist towards the end. It is not really necessary but, when you look at the film as a whole, you are subtly prepped for it the entire way through. The Hughes Brothers are constantly proving clues in both the quite scenes (such as the mouse eating cat meat) and in the action sequences (being able to smell the hijackers).
Speaking of the action sequences, there are a number of good fight scenes along with one really great shootout sequence. In the shootout scene, The Hughes Brothers have the camera track some of the bullets as they go back and forth between the house and Carnegie’s crew. It is a visual treat to watch, extremely over-the-top, but fun nonetheless. The Book of Eli may not be the best movie to come out this year, but it is better than the reviews it has been receiving so far. The film has enough entertaining, and at time thought provoking, moments to at least warrant a viewing.