The Book of Eli
Not One Of Denzel's Best
‘The Book Of Eli’ (TBOE) is yet another entry into the post-apocalyptic genre that is closer to 2009’s ‘The Road’, than say ‘I Am Legend’, or ‘Terminator Salvation’. TBOE doesn’t utilize CGI to paint armies of super-human zombies, or highly functional killer robots – the real bad guys are simply the pathetic desperate survivors of some world cataclysm. The film is about as sparse and muted as the landscape that is the backdrop for this somber tale. Most scenes are totally devoid of any color. There are several action scenes, but they are far and few between and play out much like some of the choreographed stuff we’re used to seeing in films like ‘The Transporter’. While the spare scenery and lack of jazzy effects make TBOE seem like a more realistic type movie, the perceived realism doesn’t hold up under tighter scrutiny as some elements just didn’t make sense to me.
This is the first directorial offering from the Hughes Brothers (Allen & Albert) since 2001’s ‘From Hell’, which starred Johnny Depp. Initially, they do a great job of depicting life on the very edge of survival; showing the depth of desperation that surrounds our would-be hero, Eli (Denzel Washington, shown above). After that, the story seems to take on a snail’s pace as the events unfold before us. Eli is presented as a sort of missionary, on a personal quest to deliver this book to some vague destination. Eli is confronted along the way by a man known to others as Carnegie (Gary Oldman, shown below) who just happens to be seeking the very book that Eli is carrying. While the story line is also minimalistic, newbie writer Gary Whitta, manages to fit in one twist that most people won’t see coming, even if much of the remainder of the tale is predictable. The said twist does redeem this movie, if only slightly but is not quite on the order of ‘The Sixth Sense’.
Denzel is a personal favorite when it comes to actors and I guess I was disappointed that his role in TBOE didn’t approach the intensity of something like ‘Man On Fire’. Much like that film’s character, Creasy, Eli shows the same cold focus on his mission. Unlike Creasy, Eli kills reluctantly, but efficiently. Likewise, Gary Oldman has delivered some intense characters of his own in past films, such as the scar-faced dope dealing pimp in ‘True Romance’ (one of the scariest dudes of this type I have ever seen), or the maniacal, corrupt, police captain in ‘The Professional’. In TBOE, he plays the leader of a settlement, bent on expanding his reach of control. However, the audience is never given a real reason to feel dread or fear of this character other than he has the apparent ability to order around a bunch of half-witted henchmen to do his evil bidding - pretty weak in the book of Movie Mike.
Not that TBOE is a bad movie – in fact, it does manage to keep your interest because you’re just dying to know where this is all going – but it certainly loses points on originality (why do we always have to have shots of famous landmarks in decay for background shots in these kinds of movies?) If anything, you may want to watch this more than once to revisit what you will learn are key moments in the story. If you’re a true Denzel fan, you’ll probably want to see this, but otherwise, hold out for pay-per-view or the DVD rental.