September 11, 2011

Classic Review: The Book of Eli (2010)

The Book of Eli
Director: Albert Hughes, Allen Hughes
Writer: Gary Whitta
Cast: Denzel Washington, Gary Oldman, Mila Kunis, Ray Stevenson, Jennifer Beals

A post-apocalpytic tale about the power of faith and the evil of perverting that which is holy, The Book of Eli delivers an allegorical, yet extremely powerful message. In other words, this Hughes Brothers film is not all that much unlike the book that the lead character is protecting.

Years after the civilization has been destroyed by in a mysterious Armageddon, survivors scratch out a living on a planet where there is little hope in the future. However, Eli (Denzel Washington) has come into possission of The Bible, a book that has provided inspiration and hope to billions of people throughout history. However, Eli must protect the holy book from men such as Carnegie (Gary Oldman) who would use it for nefarious purposes.

The Queering
When I sat down to watch The Book of Eli I was expecting to enjoy a regular popcorn post-apocalyptic action flick, I was not expecting anything with a profound message. However, the parable the Hughes Brothers are telling here, filled as it is with cutting social commentary, happened to resonate deeply with me.

The reason for this is that I happened to have been raised Christian, and while my personal beliefs today are more agnostic, I still get pissed whenever I see people using The Bible for purposes that I will only describe as perverted, such as warmongering, personal profit, political gain, and the promotion of bigotry. In recent years, I have noticed that this sinful practice has reached astronomical levels. Therefore, a story about a man who must protect The Bible from evil doers who would use it for such purposes, would have to Armaggeddon inducing awful not to have been able to move me. As it is, The Book of Eli is an intense, albeit occasionally over-stylized, film. The acting is strong, with stand out performances by Denzel Washington and Gary Oldman.

Overall, the cinematography is excellent and the fight sequences are often well choreographed and shot. Of particular note, is an extended fight that is shot in silhouette using only a single take. I want to applaud the Hughes Brothers here for having the brains to realise that rapid editing does not make for a better action sequence. However, there were plenty of times when it felt that The Book of Eli was too highly stylized and there are more than a few shots where it was obvious that a blue screen was used. In the end, I have to argue that a grittier tone would have benefited this story.

I enjoy movies the most when they at least try to include some level of social commentary or provocative thematic material. Fortunately, The Book of Eli has that and also manages to tell a compelling story set in a world that has been washed clean of modern civilization. It is a real shame that the Hughes Brothers do not direct more films.

Strongly Recommended. Since The Book of Eli cannot be read, people are just going to have to enjoy the movie.

The Rating


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