David’s Solo Review of The Book of Eli

20 Jan

When I first saw a trailer for The Book of Eli, I thought, “How many post-apocalyptic movies does this give us in the last year?”  Sure, this one stars Denzel Washington, Gary Oldman, and Mila Kunis, but it’s still the story of a lone man walking across the country thirty years after a nuclear war.  Well, don’t let that dissuade you from seeing this.  While the setting may be the same, the movie itself will take you to very different places than The Road did.

Washington’s character is “a walker” and that’s exactly what he’s been doing for the thirty years since the war ended.  It seems that he’s picked up some pretty impressive defensive skills along the way as well.  The thing that sets him apart from the other travelers in his world is he is carrying a King James Bible with him, and he will do whatever it takes to protect it.  When the traveler stops in a town to get some water he attracts the attention of the book collecting mayor, Carnegie (Gary Oldman).  Mila Kunis is a young woman from the town named Solara who wants to leave with the walker.

The strengths of The Book of Eli are found in what it does differently from all the other post-apocalyptic films already out there.  An interesting idea for an after-effect of the war is the loss of so much ozone that the sun will blind you if you are not wearing sunglasses.  This simple idea gave the film an atmosphere that felt more in line with a western than a science-fiction film.  There is a palpable difference between outside and inside in this world.  The sun will wake you up in the morning because it is painful.

I’m pretty sure this is the highway in between Albequerque and Ruidoso.

The biggest difference with this movie and most others is the way it handles religion.  It’s extremely rare for a Hollywood film to treat the Christian faith with any amount of respect, let alone make that faith central to the plot.  Washington’s character is a man driven and guided by faith.  He quotes from the scriptures throughout the film and teaches others how to pray.  One of the most emotional parts of the film is a montage of pages from the Bible.  I congratulate the filmmakers on their ability to show faith in such a way that it can be viewed as a strength, and not a stumbling block.

The weaknesses here are the things that just don’t fit.  Mila Kunis does a good job for one of her first non-comedic roles, but I’m not quite sure why she’s there.  Sure, some of the action happens because her character drives it, but in the end she kind of felt superfluous.  They didn’t explain her character enough to make her feel necessary.  I felt the same way with Ray Stevenson’s character.  It seemed like there could have been a lot more to Carnegie’s enforcer than what we see, but in the end he just felt incomplete.

What works about this film more than makes up for what doesn’t, however.  The Hughes Brothers have given us a new take on what a post-apocalyptic world will be like, and I thoroughly enjoyed watching it.  There are plenty of surprises, very strong action sequences, good performances by just about everyone, and familiar landscape for me (they filmed this movie all over New Mexico, but a good portion was very close to where I used to live).  The music by Atticus Ross was fantastic.  The bottom line is this is a good movie.

now I’m ready for Mad Max 4,

david

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