Film Review – The Book of Eli (2010)
BOTTOM LINE: Sometimes thought-provoking with its religious and political motifs, "The Book Of Eli" is very watchable, although it is long-winded, with a climax that does not gel too well with the western-style apocalyptic first two acts.
THE GOOD: A very cool-looking, and seemingly invincible Denzel Washington as 'Eli' walks along a desolate, and muted landscape, killing those who try to stop him in his quest to travel 'West'. In this unspecified, and unexplained apocalyptic future, Eli is carrying the last surviving copy of the King James Bible, a book which resident bad guy Carnegie (the always good Gary Oldman) recognises as a weapon which will give him control over all the left over and desperate people on the planet. Before long, the two come to blows. What makes this film interesting is its exploration of using religious ideals to strengthen and motivate political power. Carnegie feels he can brainwash the remaining human population with the book's words of faith and wisdom. Eli, a seemingly prophet-style character, wants to see the book in the right hands. The dramatic underpinning of this conflict leads to some great action scenes. The first sequence where Eli defends himself from hijackers is spectacular in its look, as Eli chops them to bits with his machete in silhouette. A sequence later when Eli and company are trapped in an old house with Carnegie and his goons blasting it to pieces is very effective, particularly in the use of camera work. Denzel Washington is perfectly cast, and appropriately cool in the role of Eli. Gary Oldman does his usual best as Carnegie, who is effectively the bad sheriff of the only town left standing. The twist at the end where Carnegie discovers that the book is actually useless to him is a great touch. "The Book Of Eli" is a brooding piece, with some great visuals, and has ideas worth exploring.
THE BAD: Despite its engaging themes, cool action and characters, the film overstays its welcome. Some sequences, despite being a delight to watch, become tiresome when they go on for too long, with the opening scene being a good example. There is an unevenness to the proceedings too. Eli is set up as an invincible man, but is stopped eventually when Carnegie works out that shooting him will stop him; why they do not do this in the beginning is any one's guess. Then there is the ending; it feels almost like an entirely other movie, particularly with the oddly cast Malcolm McDowell showing up as the keeper of the last haven on Earth. What they do with Eli's character is perhaps quite prophetic and noble, however when the film ends with his side-kick Solara (Mila Kunis) seemingly picking up his mission it seems way too far-fetched. Perhaps the ideas presented exceeded the grasp of the filmmakers, as although they come through, their execution in some parts, such as the ending, do not entirely come off that well.