Movie Review: The Book of Eli

I was surprised to hear that The Book of Eli was not based off of a graphic novel, as it seems that Hollywood has sunk their teeth into the comics section lately.  Although, after seeing the film, I would not have thought so anyway, as it seems to take a far turn to the right instead of staying left like most comics and graphic novels do. Still surprisingly though, I liked it.

I hate to say that, with the plot line and all of the impossible situations glaring me in the face, but I went in expecting to hate it (mainly because I am a bleeding heart lefty with no ties to religions or faith), and even though the main topic is religion, it wasn’t enough to annoy me. Although, there was an eye roll or two in my seat.

The Book of Eli is the story of one lonely man, Eli (Denzel Washington) who is living in a post-apocalyptic world heading west on foot and in possession of a very special book, you guessed it, the bible. Not just any bible though, a big fancy, leather-bound one with a lock on it, like your diary. He carries it in a back pack and will kill anyone who gets in his way, and plenty do. He has mad ninja skills and can smell evil a mile away. He is also the best shot in the west, or east, wherever he is, as he can shoot down a sniper from the top of a building with one shot from a revolver. Wow.

So, that is the plot line, along the way, he meets Carnegie (Gary Oldman) who is actually in search of the bible that he is carrying. Once he discovers Eli has the book, it is a mad dash of who can kill who to get the sacred book. With the bible, Carnegie plans to rule the world.

This concept, I liked. It was at this point in the film, that it was explained why there was only one bible left. After this world-ending apocalypse, people blamed the wars on the difference in religions and decided to burn every bible in the world. Well thirty years or so have passed and no one even knows how to read any more. So if Carnegie (who was old enough to know how to read when this all happened) can get the book, he can teach it to people and control them and manipulate them to do what he wants. Seems familiar, right? He even says, “they did it before, and it can be done again.” With this statement, I was actually impressed. I mean a bible-influenced movie actually admitting to the harm that it can cause, but it was over shortly. See, he was the bad guy, all in black and no one likes him, so he must be wrong.

Eli though, he is the all-knowing, bad ass protector of the book and he is on a mission from God to get the book somewhere safe. So, with the plot slightly annoying me, I would say that I would not have payed to see this film. However, the direction, the acting and the cinematography were on a completely different playing field.

The Hughes Brothers directed this film and you might recognize their work from other films such as Menace II Society and From Hell and yes, they are twins. Directionally speaking, this is a giant leap forward from their previous work. The overall brownish-gray tone of the film had me feeling just as depressed and desperate as the characters. The fight scenes, however improbable, were filmed very artistically and made it look easy for Denzel to be such a bad ass. The over all look of the scenery reminded me very much of the bleak world in the film, The Road. Although, there was more CGI and green screen used here, it was used well and didn’t seem too obvious.

I thought that the casting was well thought out. Of course, some think that Denzel Washington (Training Day, Man on Fire) can do no wrong, I happen to disagree. He is usually the exact same guy in movies as he would be in real life on a talk show about the film. However, in this film he was good and it didn’t seem like I was just watching Denzel walk around on screen for two hours. I actually enjoyed his character and the twist at the end with him. Gary Oldman (Batman Begins, The Dark Knight) is absolutely chilling in this as he is most times. Not many actors can get cast as a good guy after being cast as a bad guy so much and he plays both sides so well. As evil Carnegie, I was reminded of his role in Leon: the Professional, and was just thoroughly entertained each time he was on screen. Eli’s new sidekick Solara is played by Mila Kunis (That 70’s Show, Forgetting Sarah Marshall) and impressed me a bit too. She is really starting to show some range beyond the annoying girl in the 70’s show. Although, I’m sure that a big part of why she was cast is the fact that she has natural beauty. That was going to be important in a world with no makeup or shampoo in existence. Jennifer Beals (Flashdance, The L Word) was also cast for her natural beauty and played the girlfriend/slave of Carnegie and mother to Solara and she was blind. She didn’t have a big part, but she played it well.

So after seeing The Book of Eli, all eye-rolling aside, what have I learned from it? Well, each time I see a post-apocalyptic world film, I always take notes on what would be important to survival and I think I am safe. Chapstick was a commodity in this world, with the sun blazing all of the time and the dry air, everyone had really chapped lips. Lucky for me, I am basically addicted to the stuff, so I will either never have chapped lips, or be the richest woman in the world. I should also stock up on the hand sanitizing wipes from KFC and other food places, as these will become our only source of bathing. One thing, I am not okay with: my diet consisting of roaming house cats in the wilderness, that is where I draw the line.

I give The Book 0f Eli 3 “better stock up on chapstick” out of 5.

by Angela Davis

About Angela

Angela is the Editor-in-Chief of Lost in Reviews. She and Ryan created Lost in Reviews together in 2009 out of a mutual hatred for all the stodgy old farts currently writing film reviews. Since launching the site, Angela has enjoyed reviewing indie films over all other films, picking up new music from all corners of the world and photographing live shows. She is the co-host of Blu Monday and a member of the Kansas City Film Critic Circle.

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