The Book of Eli

The Book of Eli


So it’s kind of goofy and gimmicky, and perhaps it is just in comparison to “The Road,” but I enjoyed “The Book of Eli.” The Hughes Brothers are finally back behind the helm, and Denzel Washington is always fun to enjoy. Jennifer Beals is finally given another (slightly) meaty part for her angelic features to play and Gary Oldman gets to ham it up a bit. Plus we get a few minutes with our old friend Tom Waits again, this time playing a pawn shop dealer.

The story concerns a post apocalyptic world (something about the sun glowing up real good) where all that seems to be left to society are nomads and warriors…and even those are divided up into two categories: cannibals, and those who don’t partake. You have to watch out for the cannibals. You can tell them because they have shaky hands from eating too much human meat. But, the funny thing is, you have to watch a dude with steady hands to, because, while he might not eat you, he’s prone to take what you got, beat you up, and if you’re a woman, have his way with you. Then maybe kill you. So the test might not be all that important.

Denzel Washington plays a very powerful man who may or may not be called Eli. He fights hoards of rogues, dislocates a man’s jaw with a seated punch and dodges (make that, doesn’t—he just walks) bullets, one of which I am sure would hit him, so when I say he is a powerful man, you will believe me.

Anyway, the rocket scientists in the group may have figured out that he has a book. And Gary Oldman wants it. Gary Oldman runs a town that Eli finds himself in. And he has lots of books. But he doesn’t have the one that he wants: the one with the right words—that will help him build a bigger empire than just his simple town (how the thin and getting up in age Oldman took over even a city remains undisclosed, but presumably because intelligence has dropped considerably and he can keep them housed, fed, and supplied with liquids because he can organize etc. etc). That book, Eli’s book…is the King James Version of The Bible.

I disclose this and those that haven’t seen the film will think that an important secret of the film has been revealed. I am not so sure. They needed a book, and that was what they used. It has no great revelations, meanings, or intentions—and when you consider where Washington attempts to take the book (I’m taking the last shot, during the bit with Malcolm McDowell) it begins (well the movie is silly, but I mean his intentions) to feel silly and, looking back on it, Oldman’s obsession with finding it is a bit religiously righteous and egotistical.

But, let’s ignore that last shot and explore something. Washington has the book. Oldman wants the book. Washington believes the book can do Good in the right place. Oldman wants it to rule—to essentially do Bad. Could this be a comment on both the good the Good Word can do as well as its harmful shortcomings and the wars it has started? But the damn movie represents it so simply and black and white that it never really takes any meaning and simply becomes a thought. And Oldman’s “But I don’t have the words!” is a bit ridiculous (and can be taken to be offensive with that shot I mentioned in context). But who cares about words, when nobody can read.

And yes, there is a twist. And yes it did at first bring a smile to my face because, for the most part, the movie is true to it when you think back on it. But, the key word is MOST, as some stuff still don’t ring true. Then again, the movie is a ridiculous comic book of an action film at times, so one shouldn’t complain too much—except that there is a certain intended weight at the reveal.

I am glad to see The Hughes Brothers back at it, but wish they had come back at something else (a Hughes solo is featured in “New York, I Love You” and is a highlight). Their first two films are still the pinnacle of their career. “Dead Presidents” is beautifully constructed and “Menace II Society” is a damn urban masterpiece, complete with perfect cinematography—and they were young when they made those. Now they are older and seem to be making films for a younger crowd.

The very ending (after this shot I keep mentioning) is stupid too. The scene is stupid. It ends with a stupid scene. I just thought I should mention that.

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