The Book of Eli

The future's so bright, I have radiation poisoning.
"Some will kill to have it. He will kill to protect it."

Welcome back to the tagline! Today I will as promised deliver another heaping dose of the post-apocalypse, this time talking about 2010's The Book of Eli. Set 30 years after a nuclear apocalypse, The Book of Eli follows the eponymous main character Eli (Denzel Washington), as he makes his way towards the west coast of the former U.S. in an attempt to deliver a book he has somewhere safe, after a voice told him to do so. This book is apparently of grave significance. He is not the only person who is aware of its apparent importance however, and he runs into trouble when Carnegie (Gary Oldman) becomes aware of the book and tries to take it by force.

When I first saw the trailer for this movie, I seriously thought that they had made the Fallout series of games into a film adaptation. This world is very much like that one, ravaged by a nuclear war, with a loan man wandering the wastes with a singular purpose. Experience the hyper-saturated lighting of a scorched world, and the savage, ruthless fight over extremely limited resources. At one point in the movie Eli trades KFC handiwipes like they are money. He uses them to get Tom Waits to recharge his iPod. I mean, he's not Tom Waits in the movie, but he does charge Eli's iPod.

I have a sneaking suspicion he isn't reaching for some gum.
The movie for me really captured the idea and the atmosphere of a world that has ended, and that was what was great about it. I really bought that this place was mankind on their last legs, where a King James Bible is remembered as being important and powerful, but most don't remember why, and it becomes treated like a mythical weapon, rather than just a book of a religion. Eli is a man driven by unshakable faith, believing entirely in his purpose, and he is also a nearly unstoppable force of death while completing his task. I was worried after The Road came out earlier in the year (it hit in November 09, The Book of Eli came out in January 2010) that The Book of Eli would  also be plagued by plodding pacing, and focus entirely on human psychology rather than a real plot. Don't mistake my meaning, The Road was true to its source material, and high concept movies like that can really work (and The Road wasn't terrible as movies go) but I was really looking for post-apocalypse movie with some action, and Eli serves that up in heaping helpings. This movie never strays from its central premise, and Eli leaves a mountain of bodies behind him as he continues his travels. My only real criticism is that the movie felt small in scope as a result. I was really buying into this world, and as a consequence I wanted to see more of it. I wanted to see something other than pretty much just the one ramshackle town, and Eli's conflicts with them. I was hungry for the bigger picture, but I never got it. Also, the twist at the end was kind of ridiculous even given the context. I'm not sure I had the faith necessary to take that particular leap.

Who would pick a fight with this man?!
The film met with mixed reviews at best. A lot of reviewers seemed to feel it was a mixed up movie in terms of what genre it wanted to be. Others felt that it was trying to proselytize people because the central object was a bible, and Eli was a deeply religious man. Having recently reviewed The Postman, I've come to the conclusion that movie reviewers just don't have a goddamned clue about what's going on in movies that take place after the end of civilization. When a civilization collapses, objects that were important generally stay important, but people tend to forget why. That's how things become myths and legends, and particularly in benighted societies (or lacks thereof) this effect is profound. Much as the U.S.A wasn't the point of The Postman, the Bible isn't the point of the Book of Eli. At best, the movie is stating that knowledge can be quite literally power, and I think really that this movie is just exactly what it seems to be: a story about a guy trying to get a book somewhere in a nuclear wasteland, and killing everyone in his way. That was good enough for me, and I don't see what the problem is. 

Watch Gary Oldman berate a blind woman. 
Despite the tepid critical reception, The Book of Eli did pretty well. It ended out doing around 157 million against an estimated 80 million budget, and that's pretty good especially considering that Avatar was still dominating the box office in its 5th week (The Book of Eli opened at second behind it) and Sherlock Holmes was also still in theaters, in its 4th week. For the record, Avatar had already grossed nearly 500 million dollars at that point. Whatever man.

It's worth adding that everyone involved delivers rock solid performances that I thought really sold the movie. Gary Oldman does his best bad guy, Denzel is scary pretty much like always, Mila Kunis looks too well groomed but otherwise does a great job. Also Tom Waits is a crazy engineer guy (you know like in Mystery Men). If you have the time and haven't seen it, watch The Book of Eli. If you don't have the time, try to make it.

That's all for now! Join me Saturday, when I recap Nicholas Cage's 5 worst cinematic performances.
Shit is going to get weird.

1 comment:

  1. Loved this movie.

    Hit the nail on the head with the Bible not being the focus.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Project Wonderful Ad