People who know me – or even have found my movie blog know I have a bit of a thing for post-apocalyptic films (see Doomsday banner up top). I’m also a big fan of Denzel Washington and Gary Oldman – so The Book Of Eli is bound to get a fab review. That’s my story – and here’s my take.
Denzel plays a “nameless” wanderer through the post-apocalyptic world – he’s headed west. He has several nightmarish encounters – and the most lasting is his stop in a small town that is ruled by a book obsessed man named Carnegie (played by Oldman). Carnegie’s men try and accost the wanderer – in your traditional western – let’s beat-up on the new guy dick measuring contest – and get their asses handed to them. This prompts Carnegie to try and recruit the wanderer – only to discover that the wanderer had more than might – he has the book he’s been after all these years.
I don’t want to give away any twists – but from what I’ve read about the advertising (which I don’t keep up with) and the probability that you’re reading this blog (which is rare) – it shouldn’t really shock you to find out that the book is the King James Bible. Carnegie wants it to rule his people – and start a frenzied religious “cult” to bend to his will. The wanderer (who’s name is Eli – which I guess isn’t that big of a twist since his name is in the title) asks his faith to guide him to a place where the book is needed.
Let’s start off with acting – which I found superb. Denzel when given a role he can do something with – is always fantastic. He pulls off the action and the drama of his character with the skill one would expect from a two-time Academy Award winner. Oldman can chew the scenery with the best of them – and in this role he is outstanding – he’s given plenty of scenery to gnaw and an adept supporting cast to play off of.
The influence of the spaghetti-western genre is strong within this film – and I would argue that with Clint Eastwood killing the traditional western (in Unforgiven) that the post-apocalyptic genre is the new western genre. There’s a real sense of a figure in space with a great sense of composition. It reminded me a lot of The Good, The Bad & The Ugly – where you were either miles away or right in the face of the subject. There is some more stylized action oriented computer helped shots – that work better in this film than I’ve seen in many lesser action films.
The plot is faith versus faith – the just versus the corrupt versions of faith. You get a snake oil salesman in every religion – who twist the words to use them for their own glory and justifications. You don’t need me to explain this – but that’s the main theme.
Lest I forget to mention – it’s an post-apocalyptic film that reminds me both of my favorite video game Fallout 3 (with its somewhat biblical themes at times it felt like a side quest) and one of my favorite films of the last decade Doomsday. There are gun fights, knife fights, explosions, car chases, cannibals, punk-rock wastelanders, and sweet sweet ultra-violence. The scenery of the wastes was brilliant – I wanted to see more – and though there’s hint of a sequel – I would be surprised if it happened.
There’s some nit-picky kind of items that I’ve noticed that a lot of people take real issue with – but given the fact that you can choose to dwell on those minor issues – or blow them up to be as important as the actual plot, acting and direction of the film is a ludicrous act. It never ceases to amaze me how these nit-picks don’t come out and use their fine-tooth comb to take apart their favorite summer blockbusters – that typically have much bigger issues – but will take issue with other films.
Yes, Eli has an MP3 player that he constantly recharges – that’s at least 30-years old and my iPod battery barely holds a charge after a couple years – plot point? Nope. Yes, Eli has very nice teeth for someone wandering the wastes – plot point? Nope. Yes, Mila Kunis looks amazing for someone who’s been raised in the post-apocalyptic era – plot point? Nope. Go ahead let these little things ruin your movie watching experience – no skin off my ass.
The only thing I wanted to do at the end of this film was to watch it again – as I felt like I wanted to do some fact checking knowing the full story. After my first viewing though I’ve decided it was as near a perfect film as I like to watch – and am giving it somewhere between 4 and 5 stars – which I usually round up.