Sunday, February 28, 2010

The Book Of Eli

Year: 2010
Directors: The Hughes Brothers
Cast: Denzel Washington, Gary Oldman, Mila Kunis, Ray Stevenson, Jennifer Beals, Tom Waits

Post apocalyptic films are the norm these days. Terminator Salvation. 28 Days Later. Zombieland. I Am Legend. The Road. Each of these films in its own way follows man's will to survive the odds, whether it's against killer machines, zombies or other people who would kill to preserve themselves.

And now you can add The Book Of Eli to that list.

It begins with one man, a mysterious man named Eli (who incidentally doesn't reveal his name till towards the end) who is on a journey westbound. It's a ravaged world around him, destroyed by war. Everything is in ashes and the sun is way too bright in the day. And almost everyone he runs into are dangerous.

Eli may seem like an ordinary man who wanders on foot like a nomad, but he is in fact on a mission. He's carrying a very important book, The Bible to be exact. And he has the skills needed to keep it from falling into the wrong hands. The reason why this bible is so important will be revealed as the story runs along.

Eli then meets Carnegie, a vicious man who runs a small town he passes through. Carnegie happens to be looking for a particular book, and eventually learns that Eli has exactly what he's looking for. When Eli refuses to hand it over, the chase begins.

It sounds like a very straightforward plot, or one that is familiar. But thanks to the Hughes brothers, the film takes off well. The directors, as well as writer Gary Whitta successfully create a believable world that has been destroyed, where survival of the fittest is the order of the day, and this world has been like this for so long, there are some characters who never learned how to read or even know what a TV is. I also have to give props to the cinematography and set design here. The vast empty desert surrounding the roads, the bright white sky that never seems to fade, the run down buildings left behind....all perfectly depicted.

Washington is an actor who probably never gave a bad performance, even if the film sucked. And here he doesn't disappoint. I am well aware that Denzel isn't a young man anymore, but he can still kick ass. He performs all his own fight sequences here, and it is quite impressive. Denzel also brings that familiar calmness of his to the character of Eli, as well as the look of tiredness that Eli has been through after his long journey and overcoming the obstacles in his path.

Gary Oldman is great as the villain Carnegie, who is fun to watch whether he is smiling or snarling angrily. He may seem like an educated man but you'll see underneath that he's no different from a gangster, and Oldman pulls it off. That 70's Show's Mila Kunis provides support as Solara, a young girl who helps Eli while trying to learn about his book, while Ray Stevenson does a decent job as Redridge, Carnegie's right hand man. Personally I feel sorry for Stevenson, for he is a talented actor who doesn't get good roles, and he deserves better than being a villain's lackey.

On the bright side, it's nice to see Jennifer Beals again. Beals plays Solara's blind mother who is at Carnegie's mercy. There are also minor appearances from Tom Waits and Michael Gambon, the second Dumbledore.

If there is any flaw to The Book Of Eli, it would be little things, like the cliched reason on why the world is in hell, or how some subplots are not explored or resolved too quickly etc. But overall I enjoyed watching this, and I think Washington is the driving force behind it. He's the guy that makes it work splendidly.

Another winner from Denzel and the newest member of the 'end of the world' genre. (4/5)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"Personally I feel sorry for Stevenson, for he is a talented actor who doesn't get good roles, and he deserves better than being a villain's lackey."

You're absolutely right about this and I've read the same thing dozens of times elsewhere. Why are directors, casting directors and producers so blind to what the rest of us see with clarity?

Somebody needs to write something just for him. Of current projects in development, he'd be perfect for Gemini Man, likely to be directed by Curtis Hanson. They'll be looking for a big name, though, and that's a shame.


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