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Book of Eli, The (2010)

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Score: 5/10

Genre: Action Running Time: 1 hr. 58 min.

Release Date: January 15th, 2010 MPAA Rating: R

Director: Albert Hughes, Allen Hughes Actors: Denzel Washington, Mila Kunis, Gary Oldman, Jennifer Beals, Ray Stevenson

T

hough it cleverly blends genres and grabs interesting concepts from other films, “The Book of Eli” doesn’t really offer anything entirely new.  There’s definitely style present and enough twists, turns, and thought-provoking undertones to maintain an adequate level of wonderment at what might happen next, but sadly the substance rarely keeps up with the visuals.  The action also takes a backseat to the brooding drama and harsh post-apocalyptic imagery, the latter likely offering more believability if Mila Kunis’ makeup hadn’t been perfectly applied at all times.

In the desolate and war-torn future, the enigmatic Eli (Denzel Washington) has been steadily walking west for 30 years, holding in his possession a sacred book of immense power.  Regularly dealing with roadside hijackers, cannibals, and heavily armed gangs, Eli eventually passes through a fledgling town led by the sinister Carnegie (Gary Oldman). Eli soon learns of the tyrant’s desire to obtain the book and narrowly evades capture with the help of young Solara (Mila Kunis).  Now on the run from the mercenary warlord and his men, Eli will guard the coveted artifact with his life, and Carnegie will stop at nothing to get it.

Though “The Book of Eli” is touted as an action film, the focus is clearly not on over-the-top stunts and extreme fight sequences.  In fact, the minimal displays of flashy violence find their way into the film rather unevenly.  Rather than proceeding with the steady escalation of action into a cathartically brutal final showdown, the film bypasses this method altogether and showcases its machete-wielding hero in all his glory early on, leaving little adventure for the climax.

It starts with extreme slow motion and muted colors, with black ash raining from the sky, scrawny cats for food, IPods for music, KFC hand wipes for baths, and a distasteful necessity to neglect the weak and helpless in an effort to survive. Yet Eli never seems to be in need of aid nor does he ever appear to be a character that couldn’t save a fragile woman from the grungy hands of a motorcycle gang. Perhaps that’s why his plight isn’t all that believable and his motivations a little blurry. His swift blade, which favors clean decapitations, doesn’t quite fit with his desire to spout priestly phrases over his victims, or his ability to resist lesser temptations (such as Kunis). However, the use of religion as a weapon, and in place of uglier motivations, is the most creative aspect of the film, cleverly avoiding supernatural alternatives or less realistic concepts. Occasionally it’s subtle, but mostly it’s blatant, alternating between condemning such beliefs and siding with the benefits. “It doesn’t have to make sense,” Eli instructs Solara. “It’s faith.”

– The Massie Twins

 



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