After an unspecified war, the world has decayed into a washed-out wasteland, filled with ruthless road gangs and cannibals, constantly on the lookout for wanderers to despoil. It’s here we find Eli, a lone walker heading west, with a quest to bring a holy book, to a place where it’s needed.
When Eli steps into a godforsaken town, and meets its self-proclaimed and merciless leader Carnegie and a conflict arise, about the ownership of the book.
I enjoy post-apocalyptic movies, where the world has gone down the toilet, with a handful of characters desperately finding ways to survive, by picking up the pieces from the past.
One problem, though, with these kinds of movies is the problem of creating a credible world, for the story to play out in, which doesn’t feel artificial or too unrealistic. “The Book of Eli” doesn’t have that problem, quite the opposite. I think that the washed-out scenery, the devastated landscape, the soft grayish light and the dark clouds hurrying past the sky, draws up a genuine picture, of how the world could appear after a disastrous war.
Almost too good, actually.
The intro of the movie is also one of the best I’ve seen, as well. Where cinematographer Don Burgess shows off his skills, in a beautifully filmed scene, which really enhance the post-apocalyptic feeling, which manage stay in our minds, for the reminder of the movie.
The action sequences are also visually appealing, with fierce camera angles and well choreographed fights. Like the one where Eli meets a bunch of ruthless thugs and with the help of a machete and a witty mouth, shows who’s the real bad-ass, in the wastelands.
Even though the story feels one-track minded, focusing much on Eli and his book, the balance between drama and action never allows the movie to get boring, pushing the story forward.
However, the focus on Eli, gives little room for the other characters to develop, which I feel is a minor downside. Denzel Washington is spot on as Eli, using just his distinct presence, assurance and charisma, he portraits a man you know you shouldn’t mess with, just by looking at him.
Gary Oldman plays the slimy and sinister, yet smart Carnegie, a role we have seen him do many times before, with a good amount of self-certainty. Nevertheless, Carnegie never feels alive, besides that one time Oldman fires off his most evil and hypnotic laughter. It would have been fun to see what he could have done, if more room would have been given to him, to elaborate the role.
Mila Kunis is the one who gives the movie a dash of glamor and feminine beauty. Even though her part as Solara isn’t that demanding, she shows that she has evolved as an actor enormously, since the air-headed Jackie in “That ’70s Show”, though.
Overall, the story has enough momentum to be both interesting and engaging, all the way up to its twist, which will get you thinking, but after that it lose much of its momentum and barely manage to stumble across the finishing line, with grace.
In the end, I think that “The Book of Eli”, combines the washed-out landscape, cinematography and drama from “The Road” and “I am Legend” with the savage violence from “Mad Max”, into a fresh post-apocalyptic movie, complete with an absorbing twist, which deserves its place in any movie shelf.
My rating of “The Book of Eli”:
Photo: © 2009 Warner Bros.