The Book of Eli is a 2010 film directed by the Hughes Brothers (Albert Hughes and Allen Hughes), written by Gary Whitta. The film stars Denzel Washington, Mila Kunis, Gary Oldman and Ray Stevenson and is set in a post-apocalyptic future taking place after a huge war that is probably the reason everything ended up how it did. The film follows Eli, played by Denzel Washington, a man trying to survive to complete his task of bringing a Bible to his destination where its words will be preserved for all the generations to come. Within the first ten minutes, we witness the dangers along the path he takes. Through this, we also witness how resourceful our protagonist is. He can John Wick his way out of an ambush against five big men as fast as he can whip out a KFC lemon wipe. We are then introduced to Salara, played by Mila Kunis, and Carnegie, played by Gary Oldman, who is obsessed with the Bible and will do anything to obtain it to the point where he constantly sends his minions (who can’t read) out to retrieve it, has this whole idea that he could control the world with it. Both live in a tiny town, seemingly governed by Gary Oldman, filled with miserable, dirty people trying to make the most out of what they have. Having to pass through the town, Denzel Washington gets into trouble with Gary Oldman upon his discovery of the Bible being in his possession. A shootout takes place and Denzel runs off with the Bible. Mila Kunis wanted to tag along so here she is for Denzel to talk to, they become best friends.
The movie is very stylish and almost nails the post-apocalyptic look. Right from the beginning, the brutality of this twisted world is evident. Cats are getting arrows rammed through them, punks are hanging themselves in wardrobes, ladies with broken trollies asking for help only for it to be an ambush, and a lot of dust. Everything looks tired and worn out, sometimes filthy. There’s also this grey tint in the picture that gives the sense that the air is more unnatural than dirty like it’s polluted from chemicals. This juxtaposes the usual post-apocalyptic look, where there’s an over-saturated orange to everything, this usually feels as if it’s really hot and dry like a desert. To be honest, I find the look a bit dull and I got close to getting tired looking at it. That’s not to say the movie isn’t pretty. There are a few of these slow-mo shots of Denzel Washington just walking through this landscape, it’s nice, but there’s not really a point to them.
The film could be a little inconsistent. The beginning spent a lot of time just establishing this lonely atmosphere and did a good job at it. I got really invested in the character’s story and wanted to see how he’ll face all the obstacles in his way. Alas, there must be more plot to the mixture. The introduction of Gary Oldman’s character forces in this other plot that is in fact the main plot. This is a problem because, though there were intense action sequences before, it still felt lonely. The transition between that and the tone of the plot is a bit jarring. Not as much that you would be able to tell what the problem without thinking about it, but still enough that you knew it was off. The film acts as if that was the tone of the film all along as if there was no transition at all but a jump.
All these problems make the film seem a bit boring. The way it’s shot and edited made the film seem as if it’s supposed to be more epic, but the substance just felt tired and lost. It’s as if the filmmakers felt bored with the overall message of the film but still wanted to deliver on those fight scenes. This is especially disappointing as the film really felt like more, so much so that even after the film finished, I felt like there was more to the film left, not enough was explored and not enough focus was put into certain things.
The whole idea of Eli having this task bestowed upon him from some divine being is either underplayed or just pointless. This is supposed to be the reason behind Eli’s relentless urge to bring the Bible to his destination, but if you asked me, they could’ve just made him a normal religious person not a psychic. This puts too much weight on the already heavy plot, it really should be more simple, not a lot of it matters, just extra fat.
Gary Oldman’s character was not thought out enough. I know this because he believes that he can control a society with the Bible. I don’t know if it’s a satire on blind faith because I thought this film was pro-religion, but what do I know? He is entertaining though, Gary Oldman does a fantastic performance like he always does.
The idea of the power of religion is so powerful it’s almost magic is so unfitting to this narrative. The gritty nature of the film does not favour these thematic elements.
What I do like is the attention to detail, such as how Eli uses KFC wipes to shower, how he would have to resort to eating cats, little things I can’t remember but I know is there. Really shows how you have to turn into an outside the box thinker.
I also like how the action sequences are done. It isn’t that reliant on switching shots really quick to create the illusion of continuity, Instead, shots are actually held for more than one second, making the action feel more real.
This movie isn’t bad and there is some enjoyment to be found. The action scenes and the visually pleasing look of it should be enough. Characters are fun enough to watch. Denzel Washington is always fun. Don’t expect anything rewarding with the plot.