"The Book of Eli" Movie Review (2010)

1/15/2010 Posted by Admin

Movie Review

"The Book of Eli"

Directed by Albert and Allen Hughes, written by Gary Whitta, 118 minutes, Rated R.

By our guest blogger, Rob Stammitti

"The Book of Eli" is the latest in a seemingly endless trend of Hollywood post-apocalyptic films, a sub-genre that seems all the more effective to the masses in these days of constant fear of terrorism, lack of resources and environmental annihilation. This particular film follows a man named Eli (Denzel Washington, looking pretty darn good at 55), who is on a constant journey West with a sacred book he believes holds the key to rebuilding civilization.

Along the way, Eli comes across a little town pretty reminiscent of those old Western towns in movies like "High Noon" or "Unforgiven." It's dirty, people come in and out, and the sadistic and dictatorial mayor named Carnegie (Gary Oldman in total over-the-top mode) sits behind a big desk surrounded by strongmen and, oddly enough, books--they're piled all over, and he's the only one in the town still old enough to remember how to read.

When Eli comes passing through and Carnegie discovers he may have the book he's been searching for, he asks nicely for Eli to stick around. Eli refuses, deeming the town unfit for the book, and explosions and wild gun battles ensue as the two forces fight for the one piece of literature that will either save humanity--or allow Carnegie to manipulate it for his own means.

The film is derivative of just about every post-apocalyptic and Western film out there. Not a moment passes that doesn't feel as if we've seen it in dozens of films before, but the Hughes brothers, directors of "From Hell" and "Menace II Society," seem to think filling it with stylish slow-motion shots of the weathered world and dying sky make up for what the film lacks in originality. It doesn't. No matter how "cool" you make things look or how many things you make blow up, this is the same thing we've seen time and again.

Plus, the brothers seem to have come from the school of "Terminator Salvation," where literally everything post-apocalypse is a shade of brown or gray, and making something happen in slow-motion automatically makes it awesome.

There are a couple decently done action sequences--especially one near the end made to look as if it was filmed in one continuous shot--but they tend to go on longer than necessary and I never once felt as if Washington's character was in danger. Any dramatic tension is killed in the film when you realize Eli is basically the ultimate "badass" and the film simply won't let anything happen to him. This is made especially ludicrous in the last act, which is full of so many wild and ridiculous revelations that any iota of seriousness within the film goes down the drain.

Denzel Washington does the best he can with the material, and he's in no danger of being blamed for any of the film's flaws. Oldman, known for his over-the-top villains in the past ("Dracula," "The Professional," "True Romance"), is the same here. If you like your villains crazy and excessive, I suppose you'll enjoy his performance. The supporting cast, which includes Mila Kunis as Eli's would-be sidekick and Tom Waits as a store-keeper, is adequate.

"The Book of Eli" is simply a film so ingrained with overstylization, self-indulgence and ridiculous thematic material that it had no chance of succeeding from frame one. I won't bother spoiling the overall purpose of this film, and how you take it ultimately depends on your own personal beliefs. I suppose if you like your action no matter how many times you've seen it before, there can be some enjoyment found in "Eli." Otherwise, this is the first definite pass of 2010, and a rare dull moment in Denzel Washington's career.

Grade: D

View the trailer for "The Book of Eli" below. What are your thoughts?

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  1. Douglas327 said...

    I like action adventure films and I am a fan of Denzel Washington, but the trailer doesn't quite make me want to go out and see it. After seeing the trailer and reading the review, I've decided to wait until it comes out on dvd and rent it.

  2. Anonymous said...

    Thanks for a terrible review.

  3. Admin said...

    Thanks for being Anonymous, coward.

  4. AlphaC said...

    I thought it was an good film. I agree that it had "over-stylization, self-indulgence and ridiculous thematic material" but honestly that could probably describe all of the critically acclaimed movies: Citizen Kane, Casablanca, The GodFather, Dr. Strangelove, Titanic, and Pulp Fiction.

    The Book of Eli is probably not one of the 50 best examples of film making but in my opinion it was a rare, brave, and relatively uncompromised artistic vision aided by great acting, good music, and convincing action scenes. People may be helped by wisdom of all kinds in a post-civilized world; technology without morals might be a new kind of dark age. I only wish that the ever present movie gun clich├ęs were absent from this film, but that might be too distracting.

    As we know history is filled with unbelievable stories about nearly indestructible individuals who almost single highhandedly achieved the “impossible” in their lifetime, Alexander, Hannibal, Ceasar, Queen Elizabeth, Cortez, T. E. Lawrence, Gandhi, etc. Why should it be unbelievable that in the future one person can not make a huge difference.

  5. Anonymous said...

    If your a fan of Denzel and Gary Oldman you won't be dissappointed by how they portray their characters. The supporting actors were good to. I thought the filming and music was done well and stylishly, just the right amount.

    The hand to hand action scenes were awesome, they were filmed continuously without to many overdone close-ups. Straight to the point street style martial arts. Gun battles were great to.

    A good action post nuclear war film with a religious theme yet opened to the idea that religion can be used in a good or bad way. People either love or hate this film, everyone's different. If you like these actors, martial arts and gun action, post nuclear films, stylish filming and dark epic ambient music this may be the film for you.

  6. Admin said...

    Alpha C, that's the kind of comments we like around here. Disagree--just fine. Backing it up with something substantial, as you did? Bravo.


  7. Admin said...

    Second "Anonymous": Thanks for your thoughtful comment. We appreciate it. This is, after all, a discussion!


  8. Tamra said...

    I just got home from seeing this movie with my 15 year old son. We both really enjoyed it. It might be a good movie to see at home but I love scifi and action movies better on the "big screen" than at home.

  9. Lucy said...

    I waited WAYYYYY too long to see this movie, my brother saw it in the theatre and I just didn't get around to seeing it. However, this movie was BAD ASS! Loved it from beginning to end and so did my husband. You can never go wrong with a Denzel movie. What an incredible actor!

  10. Anonymous said...

    I loved your blog. Thank you.