DENZEL WASHINGTON GARY OLDMAN MILA KUNIS MICHAEL GAMBON
THE BOOK OF ELI
Apocalyptic films in recent years have shied away from using religious elements, typically a Hollywood end of the world film or disaster flick rarely mentions religion to avoid offending an audience they hope will buy tickets. With last years The Road using religious overtones, but never uttering anything verbally linking it to the Bible, it still managed to deliver something rational. The Book of Eli deals with the same subject matter however embraces religion, specifically Christianity, however it doesn’t tip toe around violence or what you might expect from this particular genre. Even more impressive is watching two time Oscar winner Washington in a role unfamiliar from his last five years of work.
Eli (Washington) refers to it as the war that caused the situation humanity currently finds itself in. Water is scarce, little food, and what was once a thriving earth is now more like a wasteland. Eli has been walking for 30 years carrying a book he will protect to the death. When his journey takes him into a rare town with a water supply his fighting skills are reluctantly put on display and his secret book revealed. Once he hits the road again and joined by an eager follower Solara (Kunis) who has no memory of the way the world was before its current condition, nor can she read as books are scarce. Together they head for the west where Eli says he is being led.
I’m reluctant to admit that The Book of Eli is nearly a perfect balance of typical apocalyptic elements such as cannibalism, extreme violence and desperation along with an air of originality due to the inclusion of non-sacrilegious material. While the script doesn’t use teachings from the Bible completely accurate its careful interpretation and glorification should take many skeptics by surprise. There is even a scene where Oldman, who plays another great villain, blasphemes the word of God, and refers to it as a weapon to make the poor do as he says. The film doesn’t set out to promote Christianity or preach, what it does is take sacred material and use it in an thriller, but always remains respectful to that material.
For years I have been begging in reviews for Washington to take on a role that is anything but an arrogant enforcer type with a gun and finally he has done that. This is one of the first time, maybe since Philadelphia that I have seen him get lost in a role. The cinematography is not on the level of The Road nor the production value. The Hughes Brothers however deliver a film that stands alone in this genre, and frankly might not be accurately represented by a genre. Critics panned the film which isn’t surprising and this is a movie certainly not for everyone’s tastes, likely those conservative Christians who actually might enjoy the film won’t get past the R rating, the extreme violence or the profanity.
Final Thought – A surprisingly original film that uses religion without being sacrilegious.
By: Dustin Chase W.
Editor: Jennifer Gih