The Book of Eli
Review by Rob Carnevale
POST-apocalyptic themed movies appear to be as popular as vampires at the moment but few will come as insane as The Book of Eli.
Written and directed by the Hughes brothers (of From Hell/Dead Presidents fame), the film mixes elements of Mad Max and the Spaghetti westerns with over zealous religious themes.
The result is never less than intriguing but one that ultimately has to rate as a failure.
Denzel Washington stars as Eli, a lethal loner on the search for a new beginning who has determined to head west with The Holy Bible to guide him.
En route, he happens upon a town run by tin-pot dictator Carnegie (Gary Oldman), who wants the one remaining copy of The Bible that Eli holds, and who will stop at nothing to get it.
Caught in the middle, meanwhile, is Carnegie’s adopted daughter, Solara (Mila Kunis), and his conflicted chief bodyguard (Ray Stevenson), who views the retrieval of the book as an opportunity to get Solara for himself.
To be fair, The Book of Eli has a lot of plus points in its favour.
The look of the film is impressive and is as colour drained and stark as John Hillcoat’s recent adaptation of The Road.
The action set pieces, too, are well staged and suitably violent, while the film even contains a couple of genuinely clever twists late on.
Washington, as ever, provides a mesmerising lead presence as Eli and is more than matched by Oldman’s villain, while there’s some surprise cameos to savour – including, somewhat absurdly, a gun toting late appearance from Michael Gambon and Frances De La Tour!
But as intelligent and gripping as the Hughes brothers’ movie is in places (raising some valid points about humanity’s greed along the way), it’s also wildly uneven, overlong and preachy.
The religious elements are heavy-handed and seem primed to appeal to the Bible belt, while plot holes abound. For a film that is frequently at pains to highlight the power and importance of words, the screenplay is often shoddily written.
The brothers also seem to revel in the very same violence they’re trying to condemn, which diminishes the impact of the film’s true meaning.
The Book of Eli is therefore a fascinating but critically flawed entry into the post-apocalyptic genre that may well leave you with mixed emotions afterwards.
Running time: 118mins
UK DVD & Blu-ray Release: May 31, 2010