The Book of Eli Review


Post-apocalyptic films have been big over the past year or so. The Road, 2012, even Zombieland touch on the human condition at a time when society has collapsed—all to varying degrees of success. The Book of Eli is 2010’s entry into the genre, and it does nothing new, nothing interesting to set itself apart from the best entries into the genre, like Children of Men. The film, directed by the Hughes Brothers, focuses on faith and its power to heal, but its heavy-handed message didn’t connect with me at all.

A lone man, Eli (Denzel Washington) has been traveling for 30 years. His road is dangerous—a near-apocalyptic event has killed millions, made water incredibly scarce, and transformed men into desperate, murderous animals. Eli, however, is not without hope. He possesses the only King James Bible still in existence, and he believes he is being guided to a place where the good book will salvage mankind. One day, he comes across a town run by the ruthless Carnegie (Gary Oldman), a man who is using every tool at his disposal to obtain a Bible. He wants to use the power of faith to gain more personal wealth and power, but Eli won’t let that happen. Along with the innocent Solara (Mila Kunis), he escapes Carnegie’s clutches and continues on his way, unsure of where he is going, but certain it’s toward salvation.

The film starts out quite strongly. As the directors introduce us to the world and Eli introduces us to his superhuman ability to kill, the film is gripping and bleak. It’s around the time that Eli and Carnegie meet that the film devolves into a mountain of clichés and dull exposition. It doesn’t help that none of the characters is developed, and their motivations are often half-baked.

The directors attempt to interject some action into the proceedings to make things a bit more exciting, but the action scenes are generally uninspired. There’s one moment when Eli and Solara meet a cannibalistic old couple and a shoot-out ensues that’s fun. But the chases and fight scenes are just incredibly familiar.

Not one of the actors turns out a memorable performance, but I think that’s more the fault of the screenplay, which doesn’t develop any of the characters in believable or realistic way. Eli is so simplistic. Pretty much all we know about him is that he believes in God, and Washington doesn’t play up any other aspect of him. Mila Kunis does nothing to make her character distinctive, and the screenplay fails to provide any reason for why she even exists. And as much as I love Gary Oldman, Carnegie is a caricature of every foaming-at-the-mouth villain in film history.

I think there’s definitely a portion of filmgoers who would appreciate this film, but I’m just not one of them. It beats you over the head with its message of faith, something I didn’t need to or want to hear. And it never reconciles the fact that this is a very religious man, yet he kills anyone and everyone in his path. Plus, he’s some kind of superhero, I guess. I just didn’t get it. I remember seeing trailers for the film late in 2009. They looked promising. But I never sought the film out until now. Now I know there was a reason for that. It’s just not very good.

Share This Post


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *