Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Book of Eli (Review)

     Denzel Washington and a gritty, realistic, post apocalyptic Hellscape; how can you go wrong?  Well,sadly, it's quite easy; lousy story.

     "The Book of Eli" features Denzel Washington as Eli, former K-Mart employee who is now 30 years into a post apocalyptic journey to get a book of great importance somewhere in the West.  We pick up his journey near its end as he comes across a small group of people living in the rubble of a former town and being led by a tyrannical dictator named Carnegie, played by Gary Oldman.  Oldman's character wants the book as well.  Mila Kunis plays Solara, who is either fleeing the tyranny of the town or working against our hero to steal his all important book.

     "The Book of Eli" manages to do almost everything right, the casting is very good, Denzel Washington does a good job as a hardened man on a mission, the landscape and special effects are superb, the directing and pace of the film are just right for an action/thriller, and the action scenes are almost over the top, but not too bad and they aren't too numerous or drawn out.  (Except for the opening, arrow shot sequence.)  So, what kills this movie, really?  (I'm completely giving the ending away here.)
What kills "The Book of Eli" is the book.  What is it?  Why are people willing to kill for it?  The implication in the trailers is that it's a Bible, but surely, there is more to the story than that, right?  Wrong.  It's a King James version of the Bible.  Survivors of the war which brought on this apocalypse blamed religions and tried to destroy all copies of religious texts.  Oldman's character is after what is believed to be the last, remaining copy of the Bible because he believes it will allow him to control more people over a greater area.  Maybe it will, but you can always just make up a new religion.  Most of the people alive grew up after the war and can't read anyway.  Denzel's character is taking the Bible west because God speaks to him.  Also, God is protecting him on his journey, as in bullets seem to miraculously miss or bounce off of him and he can easily slaughter people who try to take his Bible away.  (Very Christian.)  It is at this point that the movie loses me completely.  I can take that it's a Bible and people are willing to kill for its potential power over the masses, but Denzel's character is being guided by the inner voice of God, he is actively being protected by the hand of God, and, in the end, we discover (twist ending!) that he is blind, so he is actually being guided by God.  Where's the suspense in that?  This movie's ending is (forgive me for this one) preordained once we discover that God is actively involved.  It ends with Denzel's character getting to Alcatraz Island, where a group of people have been preserving books and are beginning to reprint them.  Denzel's character dies, because any Christan prophet also had to be a martyr, the King James version of the Bible (how many versions of the Bible are there?) is placed on a shelf next to other religious texts, so as to be politically correct, and Mila Kunis' character inherits Denzel's hardened look and starts her journey back to her home town; apparently a new prophet. 

     What an incredible waste of a stunningly well done post apocalyptic Hellscape.  This could have been a really good movie too, if they had only left the religious aspects a mystery.  Give Denzel's character a bit of faith as motivation and don't have bullets bouncing off of him.  Keep it a mystery if he is just a lone nut or being guided by a higher power.  Or better yet, forget the religion all together and have the book contain the cure to a plague, the location of underground bunkers full of everything a new civilization needs, or the science needed to rebuild civilization.  I'm sorry, but as soon as bullets started bouncing off of him and Denzel said he was guided by the voice of God, I knew everything that was going to happen and was just bored waiting for the inevitable end.  The shocking, twist endings of Denzel's character being blind and the Bible being written in Braille only manage to hammer home the now undeniable fact that, for this movie anyway, yes, there is a God and he wants, specifically, the King James version of the Bible to survive.  (Sorry Greek Orthodox Catholics and most non-European Christian sects.)  How this movie went from post apocalyptic action/thriller to dogma of certain Christian sects, I'm really not sure, but it was a wrong turn.

1 comment:

  1. I just watched the film. Washington is a fine actor BUT this role was something out of "Mad Max". The story line was incredibly weak and lacking, the cinematography was poor, colouring distracting and made one squint and the overall production seemed that of a high school play. Charactor development greatly lacking and predictable. For such a fine reputation it seems Washington must have needed the money for this one. On a scale of 1-10 I rate it a very low "1"!