Review: “The Book of Eli”

January 23, 2010 at 2:51 pm Leave a comment

Considered the first major epic of 2010, The Book of Eli has a lot going for it: a great cast, incredible visuals, and plenty of kick-ass action.  Underneath it all, the film also has a layer  of something deeper, something that requires a little more than a suspension of disbelief.

If you haven’t heard, or guess, by now, the ‘book’ is a King James Bible.  Not just any King James Bible, the only King James Bible left on the planet.  The Book of Eli takes place several decades after a nuclear war has devastated the Earth.  American society has devolved into something akin to the Old West, with small dusty towns and roving bandits preying on people as they travel.  Eli (Denzel Washington) is a man on a mission.  He must get his Bible from one end of the country to the other.  He understands that there are those willing to kill him to take that book, and he goes to extreme measure to ensure its safety.  Gary Oldman plays Carnegie, an educated man who, like Eli, was alive in the ‘world before’.  He understands the power religion has on people and wants to use it for his own purposes.

I won’t go any further into the plot, as knowing little going into this movie will serve the viewer better.  While there can be plenty of religious and philosophical discussions that could take place as a result of this movie, there’s enough that anyone looking for an enjoyable popcorn flick will enjoy it.

Washington and Oldman are fine in their respective roles as good guy and bad guy.  Obviously, Oldman looks like he’s having a ball playing the villain, although he’s toned down quite a bit in comparison to his performances in The Professional and The Fifth Element.  Washington seems to be putting in some really good work here, and you can feel his committment to his character coming through in every scene.  The only squabble I had was with Mila Kunis’ character of Solara.  While she’s not bad, per se, I just didn’t fully believe in her character.

Visually, the directors (Albert and Allen Hughes) and their DP Don Burgess have nailed it.  If you’ve ever played the 2008 video game Fallout 3, you know that the world ain’t a pretty place after a nuclear war.  Here, not only is the environment and the general landscape desolate and barren, it’s downright haunting.  Everywhere Eli turns to there is a reminder of our current state of society (roads, cars, buildings, technology), but it’s wrapped up in this unforgiving backdrop of desperation.  The colors are desaturated to enhance its bleak look.

Also, the music fits perfectly.  Composed by Atticus Ross, the score resembles a bit of Vangelis’ score for Blade Runner, and accompanies the visuals perfectly.

The Book of Eli may turn off some with its overt tones toward religion, but I applaud screenwriter Gary Whitta for crafting something that definitely takes its chances.  It’s suspenseful, action-packed, and thematically very beautiful.

8.5/10

(images from Yahoo!)

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