The Book of Eli (2010)- Dir. Albert & Allen Hughes- 118 min- USA
My second ever video review for a movie. Hopefully it was better than the first!
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My name is Lyle Prijoles and I am reviewing the Book of Eli, a post-apocalyptic story starring Denzel Washington as Eli, a drifter/ custodian of what is believed to be the last existing copy of the King James Version of the Bible. The religious foundation of the film is set by the title and by watching Eli walk through the desert for the first 20 min of the film and for pretty much the whole movie. A very-Jesus like mode-of-transportation, so right off the bat you know this Eli guy might be kind of a big deal.
On his journey westward, he battles through the lawless landscape of destruction, fighting anyone who would dare stand in his way. While stopping in a town of survivors, he meets Carnegie, played by Gary Oldman. Carnegie is the powerful leader of the area who himself is searching for a copy of the Bible. He hopes by having a monopoly over religion, he can expand his power. Along the way, Eli picks up his own disciple named Solara, played by Mila Kunis.
As I mentioned before, the central theme to this movie is pretty clear from the get-go: religion and faith. Someone’s own personal beliefs on religion can make or break this movie for them. It alludes to religion as the main reason for the nuclear holocaust 30 years prior, hence why Bibles are pretty much non-existent. In fact, books in general are pretty scarce. The film then shows you an example of what the world might look like without religion. Whether that’s a good or bad thing, the film makes you believe the world pretty lost without it.
The main conflict between Eli and Carnegie over possession of the Bible plays out in their view on the use of religion. Eli wishes to use the Bible for good by completing his journey westward. I won’t mention why he’s going west because it might be a bit of a spoiler, but I’ll just say Eli isn’t driven by personal gain. Carnegie on the otherhand sees the Bible as a weapon. He grew up prior to the bombs dropping, so he knows the power its stories and words can have on people. He predicts that with the Bible, people will flock to him for guidance. We’ve seen this countless times throughout history, people using religion for personal gain. For these two, ownership of the Bible equals power. What they want to do with that power is very different from each other.
What bothered me about the movie were the little things. Eli’s use of an ipod, which if you pay close attention is a 3rd generation model, obsolete by today’s standards, so you can imagine in 30 years that thing would only function as a paperweight. Apple’s hardware is good…but not that good.
Another thing is how nicely groomed the main characters were. Sure, they rubbed a little dirt on everyone to give it that lack-of-soap-and-showers feel and had everyone not shave for a couple weeks. But being covered in all that dirt, you couldn’t help but notice how white and clean their teeth were. I imagine if there’s a shortage of clean water, shampoo, and probably soap, toothpaste may not be around either. But who knows, maybe dentists were one of the few occupations that survived in this world. Speaking of shampoo, I noticed Solara and her mom in the movie looked like they cheated and kept a hair stylist all to themselves. The little things took me, even for just a moment, out of this desolate world.
Speaking of Solara and out of place, Washington and Oldman give such powerful performances, Kunis’ acting sticks out like a sore thumb. Not that I think she did a horrible job, but I guess that’s the problem being on screen with such established actors. Washington is one of my all-time favorites and in my book, should have a few more Oscars. Oldman has played bad guys so well throughout his career, being the antagonist this time around just seems so effortless. Kunis’ performance seems forgettable in between these two heavyweights. And that pains me to say since I’ve enjoyed her in previous roles.
Overall, this movie made me think, which I very much like doing. The story suffers from uneven pacing, lack of attention to details, a one-sided, polarizing message that can turn off “non-believers”. Also, the world it created seemed so generic and unoriginal for me, I wondered if they went half-sees on set design with “Terminator: Salvation”. It paints a picture that the world is stuck into another “Dark Ages” and human progress has been stunted for the past 30 years. It seems ironic since throughout history, its perceived that religion and scientific progress are opposing forces. The action was well-placed and didn’t overwhelm the film, which is what a lot of these movies tend to do nowadays. There was a plot twist at the end which they kind of hint to throughout. When viewers find this out, they can either go “ahhhhh, that’s deep and makes sense” or “oh. that was kind of corny and impossible”. For me, I sort of liked it and it kinda makes me want to watch the movie again just to see if that changes some scenes for me. If you’re interested in religion, I recommend this. If you’re not religious, you’ll probably think the whole thing is stupid. Not my favorite Denzel role, but one that I think continues his legacy as one of the best actors of our time.