Hollywood has had a slight obsession with the apocalypse in recent months, with ‘Zombieland’, ‘2012’, ‘Knowing’, and ‘The Road’. Denzel Washington stars in the thriller ‘The Book of Eli’. In it, he portrays Eli, a man who walks across a post-apocalyptic America with only cannibals, thieves, and beggars left. He carries the last surviving copy of the Bible, and has been walking across the country for the last 30 years, trying to find a suitable sanctuary for it. Being the sole protector of it, he is willing to kill anyone who tries to harm him.
The film is surprisingly dull in moments, a series of well-shot action sequences pierced by long conversation about obvious plot points. I found it surprising how overtly spiritual the film was, and it simply got preachy in several scenes. Of course, the great irony of the film is that in one moment there’s a very clear religious undertone the filmmakers are attempting to deliver, and in the next severed limbs flying everywhere.
The cinematography, however, is gorgeous. The film adapts a unique color palette of over-saturated grey and green, and it looks gorgeous. Another up-side in this film is by far the acting: This is hardly a showcase role for Denzel Washington, but he manages to bring a complexity to the role of Eli that is both stylish and somewhat believable, all whilst shooting henchmen in the face. Gary Oldman plays Carnegie, a literary nut aware of Eli’s possession, willing to kill him to retrieve it. Oldman is great here. He’s in less scenes than the trailers would indicate, but with what he’s given he does well.
Mila Kunis as Carnegie’s daughter, Solara, is actually fairly good. Kunis, aside from a role in ‘Forgetting Sarah Marshall’, hasn’t really been in any big-screen movies, and proves herself to be a fairly capable actress here. The film is essentially about the power of religion to do both good and evil. That said, the random and brutal violence in the film just completely outweighs the message.
‘The Book of Eli’ isn’t a bad movie: The acting is really good, it’s gorgeously shot, and its attempts at social commentary don’t completely fail. That said, it’s a fairly repetitive film, with the violence too scarce to satisfy its intended action audience yet too brutal to satisfy its intended Christian audience.