If history has taught us anything it’s that, without fail, two things have always gone well together: God and machetes. After all, what better says “let’s worship the Lord” than cutting off 15 guys’ heads? In light of the fact that this movie was recently released with a completely different cast under the title The Road, The Book of Eli is a pure adrenalin action film that relies heavily on its two main characters–namely Denzel Washington and Gary Oldman.
B.o.E. takes place roughly thirty years after a massive war which, according to the bits and pieces of history we’re given throughout the movie, “tore a hole in the sky.” After that, the sun killed off nearly every living thing on earth. The title character is one of the few remaining people that can read, and just happens to have a book (if you hadn’t figured that out by now, please go back to huffing glue). Now he’s not carrying around just any old book, mind you, it is a King James Bible. In fact, Eli holds the last bible on earth, you see religion was blamed for man’s destruction of the earth, and all bibles were burned shortly after the war. Eli is on a mission from God and is taking the bible “west” to spread the Word to humanity once more, nevermind that on his journey he doesn’t have time to protect the average waste dweller from being raped and murdered. “Eli, spread the Word, just not to those people, right?” Ok fine, but in other news, the film defines hypocrisy, which is a plus.
However this film isn’t about one man’s pilgrimage “west,” its about all the people he meets along the way…and the percentage of whom immediately lose their heads.
Eli has an almost mythical ability to not only fight countless bad guys without so much as a scratch, but also to chop peoples’ heads off with the flick of his wrist. So when he runs into Carnegie (Oldman), the ruthless boss of a roadside colony featuring fresh water, tons of bad guys with heads, and Mila Kunis as Solara, Eli decides that he should stop in. We’re given enough background to know that Carnegie, like Eli, was around before the blast, can read, and is looking for one book in particular (give you one wild guess). As with anything important, he finds his book in the backpack of a guy who walks into his bar and starts chopping the heads off of his customers. You can guess where it goes from here. Eli befriends Solara, they set out together, with Carnegie chasing them all the way. The plotline is fairly predictable, so let’s just hit the big finish.
Washington and Oldman play a great Yin and Yang as prophet and devil, and Mila Kunis is passable as the daughter of Carnegie’s punching bag, although one wonders how paid film editors allowed her to prance around in brand new outfits and tons of make up when everyone else looks like they just got done mosh-pitting in a downpour.
The scenery is impressive in its vast scope as well as its detailed visual presentation of what the war — read “mankind” — has done to the earth. The devastation is more readily and consistently apparent than we might have expected in similar movies such as the recent Terminator flick. The camera and editing work are both artistically and carefully planned out, and the film’s opening scenes conjure up the graphic novel-esque blockbusters that are all the rage these days (see 300, Sin City, etc.); however, the film quickly becomes more bleak Western in feel than anything else, which seems fitting given the utter void of life which surrounds the characters.
The plot is generously littered with the brow-beating “man has distorted God’s message,” metaphor, as shown in Carnegie’s attempt to become a murderous mix of televangelist and Kim Jong-Il, bending the illiterate masses to his will with the Word of God. Despite this, there are enough twists and turns to keep you entertained, and for the action junkies, there’s always the head chopping scenes. B.o.E. was a fairly good film, though certainly doesn’t afford Washington enough leeway to be noted as one of his best performances of all time, as more than a few news sources claim in the TV spots. Have they seen Training Day?
For more info: One of the biggest problems with this film was that it wasn’t Clash of the Titans, which looked awesome, but has all the trappings of a monumental bust, so let’s cross our fingers. Fast forward to the Krakken scene at the end to see what it was like for me waking up an old roommate too early…