The Book of Eli (2010), PG-13
Starring Denzel Washington, Gary Oldman, Mila Kunis, Ray Stevenson, Jennifer Beals
Directed by Albert Hughes and Allen Hughes
Review by David L. Felts
Have you seen this movie?
I like end-of-the-world books and movies, probably because when you get right down to it I’m not a big fan of people. They get in my way, they tailgate me even when I’m already speeding, they sneeze on me in movie theaters, they’re rude to me on the phone…. So it’s fun every now and then to kick back and indulge in the fantasy that most of the people are gone and you’re on your own, free to scavenge a life off the corpse of the old world.
I’m not real clear on the back-story, but best as I can tell, The Book of Eli picks up some 30 years after some sort of world destroying war, a war brought about by religion. Now that doesn’t sound too far-fetched to me, as religion tends to be a major motivator behind quite a bit of mayhem in the world. My God is Great and Kind and Loving and if you don’t worship Him I’ll kill you! And I’m not talking about only Islam; take a look at the history of Christianity. Heck, take a look at the history of just about every religion, even Buddhism, and you’ll find some sort of violence perpetrated again the people who didn’t believe or believed something else.
That aside, what we have here is Denzel Washington as a wandering nomad who’s been heading ‘west’ ever since he found this special book and heard a voice tell him to ‘head west’. He also happens to be pretty handy in a scuffle, as is demonstrated several times when he’s beset by people who want his stuff or are just plain looking to start a fight.
After one particular demonstration of his ass-kicking skill, he gets noticed by the leader of one of those scabby apocalyptic towns we’ve all seen. The leader, played by Gary Oldman, invites Washington up for a little conversation about joining forces. Washington is given the night to think about the offer. We’ve also learned by now that Oldman is looking for a book. Not just any book, but a special book that will give him power over others. I don’t think I’m giving anything away here to reveal that the book in question is the Bible. Oldman seems to think if he can get one, it will give him all the power and control he needs over others.
Mila Kunis is sent by Oldman to Washington’s room. Washington takes the food but declines the rest; Mila stays in the room overnight to avoid punishment for not seducing Washington. In the morning, when Oldman’s cronies show up, Washington is gone.
Follow with a chase scene, a gun battle, and some explosions as Oldman goes after Washington after learning he has the book. Various things happen that I don’t want to give away, and then the movie ends.
So down to brass tacks. While I enjoyed the movie, there were some things about it that made me go ‘yeah, right’.
The first is the premise that every Bible in the entire world has been destroyed. Really? Billions of Bibles destroyed? Every Bible in every nightstand drawer in every hotel/motel in the country? Every. Single. One. Yeah, right. So I have to say my inability to accept this most basic premise did jade me a bit.
Then there’s a scene where a character, born AFTER the apocalypse, drives. Just got right in there, cranked it up, and headed out. I guess they still have driving school in the wasteland. At least have the character swerve around a bit and ACT like it took a little getting used to. Minor compared to the Bible thing and what’s next, but it still bugged me.
And lastly is the big reveal in the end. I won’t give it away (you might know it anyway) but I was completely unable to accept it. My suspension of disbelief was hung by the neck. Until dead.
In summary? It’s a fun enough movie to watch, but I didn’t feel as though I learned anything, or came away changed, or thoughtful, mainly because of the two ridiculous premises I was asked to believe. It was kind of like when you read a good story and it ends with ‘and then he woke up’ and you realize it was all a dream. Good story, but not real, which might sound kind of silly since we’re talking about fiction to begin with, but there you go.
It’s worth a watch, but to me, didn’t live up to my expectations.