The Book of Eli takes the idea of a faith based film and puts a Mad Max style twist on it. It attempts to implement an uplifting message while being submerged in this grim reality of hopelessness.
Denzel Washington plays Eli, a lone wolf traveling across the ruins of what was once the United States, before some apocalyptic event took place. He is guided by an unknown force, telling him to continue moving West. Eli comes across a Western town run by a ruthless but intellectual leader Carnegie (Gary Oldman). Carnegie searches endlessly for a certain book (I am sure you can guess which) used before the apocalypse to captivate the masses. With this book, he knows he would have the ability to manipulate and control others. Tensions form when Carnegie discovers that Eli, who is just passing through the city, is in possession of this very book.
Washington really plays this character of Eli well. He is a man of not too many words, with this mysterious aura around him. Overall I think the character was pretty memorable, more for his style and minimal use of dialogue than his personality.
The Book of Eli is almost completely void of any color, which really plays to the drab atmosphere established. At some points the film is so absent of color it even appears to be in black and white. This was a neat touch to add to the film. It really got me thinking about the barren, hopeless state the world is in, somewhat reminiscent of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road.
Sadly I think the film attempted to dabble in one too many genres and themes. It feels like a hodgepodge of ideas ranging from Western, to post-apocalyptic action movie, to faith based film. On the same note, some might argue that The Book of Eli gets a little too dark for what message the filmmakers are trying to deliver. The target audience for the religious based message might be isolated by the films hyperviolent and often graphic scenes.
Now, I wouldn’t call the end of the film a twist per se, but it will leave you reconsidering all the events that previously transpired. Like me, you may think back to certain scenes in the film and be awestruck. Some people may feel like the ending is a tad ridiculous, but I appreciated it for what it was.
The Book of Eli is a highly enjoyable film that I had a lot of fun with. Sure at times it recycled themes and bit off more than it could chew, but generally I think these problems can be overlooked. Denzel Washington puts in a good performance as usual, and those who like “walk by faith” films will probably be able to get something out of it.
The Verdict: B