This one was a bit of a mind-bender. Was it an action movie? Allegorical religious drama? Science Fiction? A Mad Max/The Road/Fahrenheit 451 ripoff? Actually, yes to all of the above.
The world has already ended. Again. I never thought I’d say this, but I’m getting tired of seeing the world end on screen. The Road, 2012, etc, that when the actual end of the world comes I may be a little bored. The movie centers around Denzel Washington who plays some kind of post apocalyptic ninja on the road “west” and is protecting a King James Bible. A bible that the evil Al Swearengin character Gary Oldman wants for his very own.
The acting is pretty good. For a Road Warrior type movie, Denzel Washington and Gary Oldman do a fine job. Mila Kunis, well, let’s just say she really didn’t add anything to the movie. Julie Benz or any other TV actress doing bit parts in movies could have been easily swapped in or out. And right now all this casting tells us is who has the better agent.
The thing I liked about the film the most was its allegorical take on religion. The battle between God and the Devil, the relationship between hope and faith, and Gary Oldman’s take on being the antichrist all gave the movie an interesting and fresh dynamic. Religion, at its best makes us better people and closer to the divine. At its worst it’s a means of controlling people and an excuse for violence and murder.
The problem is, then the movie got… well… silly.
Water is scarce, but gas seems to be no problem as there seem to be plenty of cars in Oldman’s town. Sure, we may not have food or water, but we have a motorpool. What do you need? Please walk to the post apocalyptic Hertz window on your left.
The movie just starts to go off the rails about halfway through. I feel like I could see the studio notes. “Make it bigger”, “Raise the stakes”, “He needs a love interest”. Look, I have no problem suspending disbelief. I really don’t. I do it every time I get up in the morning and think about how I’m going to be a millionaire.
But this movie taxed even my disbelief engine. The reveals then get bigger and dumber until at the end I was thinking “no way” and not in a good way. More like a “come on, seriously?” kind of way. I’m not going to spoil anything because the movie ending will do that for you.
The Book of Eli was halfway to a great movie. Cool premise, good acting and stylized directing by the Hughes Brothers along with cool action sequences made for a fun time at the movies… for about 40 minutes. In fact, if you really want to enjoy this movie then see the first half, leave the theater and imagine the rest of it in your head. Or play the second half of Road Warrior at home on DVD. The soundtrack will probably synch up like The Wizard of Oz and Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon.
I did learn something that I didn’t learn from The Road. Eating too many people gives you the shakes. I had no idea. See? Movies do teach us something.