Ever since the Road Warrior, I have enjoyed a good apocalyptic film. This year has seen a resurgence, first with Terminator: Salvation, then the adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's "The Road", and now with Denzel Washington and "The Book of Eli".
I enjoyed this film immensely. The movie is full of tiny moments, starting from the very first scene that do not make sense in a particular way. At first this rubbed me the wrong way, as I thought it was simply another example of substituting movie style for practicality. But the movie's wonderful twist ending redeemed all these small moments. And unlike films like the Sixth Sense which felt the need for a montage to relive all the out of place moments, The Book of Eli confidently keeps moving forward after the reveal, letting the viewer sort through memory and pick out those off moments that now make sense.
Even before the ending, however, this movie has a lot going for it. The bright palette (explained through use of a weapon that caused the apocalypse by altering the atmosphere) and gritty surroundings give the film a look half Road Warrior and half Western. It's an environment that encourages compromise. Who wouldn't follow the direction of the man who provides the only water in hundreds of miles? Even if he is a dictator who rules with an iron hand and treats the world as his inferior.
Our hero, that's who. Denzel Washington has always been good at projecting the calm in the storm, and this role as a wandering prophet was tailor made for him. But he is an old school prophet--bringing unyielding death and destruction to those who would thwart the path God has laid out for him.
The movie walks the fine line between faith and evidence, and raises wonderful questions. In the events of the film, we have only the word of Eli himself that he has been chosen by God. Is his survival evidence that he is in fact divinely protected? Or just another coincidence in a world turned intolerably cruel? Were the survivors of the apocalypse right to turn against religion as the cause of the war that tore their world apart? Or is it the only thing that can save the survivors? Images and events can lend credence to arguments in either direction. It is hard not to feel the positive aspect of faith as a girl prays before eating for the first time, but then the plan of the dictator to use religion to control an empire emphasizes the terrible things that have been done by people to other people in the name of faith and religion.
The Book of Eli, a tale of a prophet in a future that hopefully will never be.
4 out of 5 stars