Tuesday, January 12, 2010
Review - The Book of Eli
Question: What happens when put an American Gangster with an American Psycho and Dracula and add a hint of The Punisher?
Answer: You get desolate film meant to inspire hope.
The Book of Eli is a few different movies rolled into one. It’s an action/adventure flick complete with the requisite speeding cars, shoot-outs and fight scenes. It’s also a post-apocalyptic thriller with all of the necessary shots of desolate landscapes, civilization in disrepair and of course the limited resource that’s incredibly precious.
But at the same time The Book of Eli is also a meditation on faith. The main characters utilize faith to varying degrees and the end of film leaves the audience with a shining example of the power of faith.
That could be a good thing or a bad thing.
The Book of Eli is about a lone man, Eli (Denzel Washington) shepherding a book that, he believes, holds the key to mankind’s salvation, civilization being in shambles due to an unspecified manmade event that put a hole in the atmosphere and requires everyone to wear shades. He’s on a mission to take it West.
Along the way Eli faces marauders and stumbles into a place that has a whiff of civilization. It’s lead by Carnegie (Gary Oldman). Carnegie also happens to be looking for a book, a special book that’ll help him shore up his powerbase. As luck would have it Eli’s book is the book that Carnegie’s after.
Visually the film is impressive. When Eli explores the desiccated husk of civilization, it never feels like it’s a set it feels like the wasteland after an apocalypse. There’s a constant haze in the air and while watching the film you may actually find yourself parched.
The fight scenes are perfectly choreographed. Denzel’s lack of a of a stunt double creates the immense joy of actually seeing him whip ass. Even the silhouette fight sequence is captured perfectly.
The only real misstep the Hughes Brothers make is the attempt to make the film seem epic. The Book of Eli could have been subtitled “Scenes of Denzel Walking in Slow-motion.” Seriously, here’s an analogy; Tom Cruise running is to Mission Impossible 3 as Denzel Washington walking in slow motion is to The Book of Eli. No exaggeration.
Story-wise there are some things to be desired. The cause of the apocalypse is left vague, but annoyingly so. There’s only a hint as to what the catalyst was, but not the actual event. Also, the female characters seem paper thin, like Judd Apatow-flick thin. They’re little more than plot devices. Mila Kunis’ Solara is underdeveloped to say the least.
And that third act reveal borders on the preposterous.
The film also treads into ham-fisted dialogue at times. When Eli tells Solara about the world before, it’s almost cringe inducing. And when practically anyone mentions Eli’s book, the dialogue is so on the nose that it feels like an afterschool special.
On the plus side, the story is packed with cute nods to “the world before.” Having two generations pass since the apocalypse was a clever touch. And the characters are decently motivated and behave accordingly.
Back to the characters on the notion that the film is a meditation on faith; faith is crucial to the three lead characters. Eli wants to restore it, while Carnegie hopes to instill it. Meanwhile Solara has just found it.
All in all on the macro scale The Book of Eli works well; it looks great and has strong performances. But under the microscope it falters with scrutiny.