Published Jan 14, 2010The Book Of Eli is a throwback. The film takes its style and set design from the post-apocalyptic action movies of the '80s like The Road Warrior and Escape From New York. Denzel Washington stars as genre staple, Clint Eastwood-style silent hero Eli, who is wandering through the destroyed remnants of society.
Eli carries with him only weapons, water, fire, an iPod (wouldn't we all?) and the last remaining Bible. He feels compelled to take the Bible west, but doesn't know why. The plot kicks into gear when Washington enters one of the few remaining communities and meets Gary Oldman's crime lord, Carnegie, who is seeking a copy of Bible so that he can use it to control weak-willed survivors.
For the first two acts, The Book Of Eli works incredibly well, with directing partners the Hughes Brothers (Menace II Society) deftly combining action, fantasy and theology. True, it may be a little heavy-handed for something that is primarily a piece of entertainment, but it works, for a while.
Washington and Oldman are a perfectly cast pairing of good and evil, and the commentary on the misappropriation of religion by corrupt leaders is well handled. Unfortunately the final act tries to turn a gritty action movie into a Christian parable and it falls a little flat. If church groups ever see this movie they will love it despite the decapitations. But somehow I don't think that's the audience Warner is going for.
The movie also falters in the casting of That 70's Show's Mila Kunis as the last hottie on earth (how she brushes her teeth and keeps her hair immaculately styled we'll never know). Kunis is fine early on, but without giving too much away she's supposed to transform into a badass action chick by the end and is simply too petite and limited as an actress to pull it off.
There are some fantastic sequences in The Book Of Eli, and it's nice to see the Hughes Brothers directing again, but sadly the movie just doesn't work as well as it should. (Warner)