Unilaterally Sarcastic, Dangerously Cheesy

Film Review : The Book of Eli

HEY LOOK! It's my face...

I’ve read a single negative review for “The Book of Eli” and its main contention was that the movie was a failure because it wasn’t an overtly bleak and pseudo-artistic piece of Oscar-bait like John Hillcoat’s adaptation of “THE ROAD.” Maybe it’s just me, but downplaying a movie because it doesn’t follow the same pattern of another film with similar themes seems like ass-backward logic.When you start judging movies on what you wanted them to be other than what they are, and more importantly, what they set out to do in the first place, you set yourself up for disappointment.

You have to look at “The Book of Eli” more in line with movies like “Mad Max” or “Escape from New York.” It’s all about being immersed in the world that’s presented and going on a journey with the characters inside. And the characters presented here are painted with very broad strokes. This is not a film about subtle nuances. While Eli’s masterful sword strokes are calculated and precise, the rest of the film owes to towering chaos. While Denzel does a great job playing Eli with a soft-spoken demeanor and smoldering intensity of a wandering apocalyptic samurai, Gary Oldman’s villain Carnegie tells us all we need to know about the film; chewing scenery and going big with his performance in such a manner that the character becomes the polar opposite of Eli in every way from intent, to demeanor, to action.

This movie owes a great deal to movies like “The Road Warrior.” It is a pure genre film complete with many of the tropes and schemes therein and it does not deviate too heavily. The action is bloody, the characters are cut from classic stock, and the film does not aspire to be “high art.” However, as with most genre movies, like “Road Warrior” or “Escape from New York,” the film does have an undercurrent of social commentary. I assume everybody knows what the “book” is but if you don’t, spoilers begin here.

***SPOILER WARNING***

The book is the last bible on Earth, all other copies having been destroyed after a conflict supposedly spiraling out of religious conflict. The film chooses to play with the concept of abuse of religion as it relates to creating and amassing power as well as what measure of control religion has over the minds of the desperate. Eli views himself as the righteous man trying to get the book where it can do the most good, whereas Oldman wishes to use it to consolidate his own power. The major thought pattern that I took away from the film is that those who wish to use the word of God in a manner keeping with its teachings often do not know how to do such a thing and there will always be those who wish to exploit religion for their own gain, publicly appearing to be the righteous man and only revealing his true nature to those who he relies on to further his agenda.

Oldman is akin to modern day preachers who use the word of God to spread hatespeech and stroke their own ego. It would not be surprising, had they given any backstory on the character, to find out that he was at one point one of these types before everything went all bleak and ashy.

So while the movie is not a snooty art-picture, it does maintain a level of social-commentary that genre films like these need to stay afloat.

***END SPOILERS***

Taking the movie for what it wants to be, it is in very good company. It accomplishes most of what it wants to do, and fully entertains throughout the duration. The only negatives I can attribute to the film come in the form of Mila Kunis, who is simply to pretty and well kept to show up in a film like this, and a somewhat uneven bit of structure to the action beats.

All things considered, it’s still well worth a viewing, and I certainly plan to revisit the film once it hits home video.

RATING : 7/10

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