Review: The Book of Eli
PLOT: Eli is a stranger in a strange land. He walks upon a desolate landscape and avoids most of the survivors that still haunt the earth. As he hunts for food, including cats, he stumbles upon numerous madmen and troublemakers. All the while, he holds onto his most prized possession in his backpack. When he arrives at a town run by a fellow named Carnegie, this powerful man takes an interest in Eli. But once Carnegie finds out that Eli is carrying this particular object, he gathers his merry band of idiots to take it from him. And so, the chase begins well, not really a chase, more like a slightly swift walk.
Watching THEBOOK OF ELI is a strange experience. For awhile, I found myself enjoying the spectacle of another post apocalyptic world. The Hughes Brothers along with DP, Don Burgess, have painted a visual treat as Denzel Washington walks upon the desolate remains of earth, alongside criminals and cannibals, with a single purpose in mind. And Denzel is very convincing as the lonesome stranger called Eli. In fact, there are a handful of things that I really enjoyed here, obviously one of those things was Mr. Washingtons performance. I also have to give credit to a wonderful sound design and a compelling score. It works wonders with the haunting visual atmosphere created. And it also features a pretty fascinating villain with the help of Gary Oldman. He plays Carnegie with his typical flair and thankfully, he manages to make the guy more interesting than one would expect. But is that enough to make a great movie? Not at all.
Now, this couldve been such an intriguing project well it was an intriguing project, 2009s THE ROAD. Sadly, The Book of Eli is nowhere near as powerful, lacking the heart and humanity that made The Road as beautiful as it was. Elis mostly dialogue free beginning begins on just the right note, but somewhere along the way, the beauty is lost. Not unlike the many other apocalyptic movies that came before, there are numerous one-note characters that have the sole purpose of expendable fodder. As the traveler Eli finds himself in the midst of a gang of killers, he suggests that the main baddie should keep his hand off him, or this dude wont get it back. What do you think happens? And when it does, the fun begins. I fully enjoyed most of the action set pieces, even if they did feel like I couldve been watching OLDBOY, or possibly THE ROAD WARRIOR.
There are so many other clichés mixed into The Book of Eli, that there is not one bit of originality left. I suppose the idea behind what Eli is protecting is unique, but it is played in a very basic and tired formula. Sometimes I am willing to forgive a film for excessive amounts of unoriginality, but not when it is so haphazardly put together. So many times, I was distracted by an all too obvious plot hole. For instance, why do they keep talking about Gary Oldman and Denzel Washington being two of the few old people left, when it seemed as though most of the town wasnt necessarily all that young. And how on earth did Mila Kunis get out of that locked room, with absolutely no mention of it? Will there be deleted scenes to explain this come DVD time?
Now speaking of Mila Kunis, I really like this young lady. But I have to wonder why they hell they keep casting her in action films. Shes just not very believable in them. With MAX PAYNE, I just figured she wasnt given the best role and she did fine with what she had to work with. But Im starting to question that. As Carnegies adopted daughter Solara, she really doesnt seem to go beyond what she has done before. Sure she is cute as hell, and it is not a bad performance necessarily, but it isnt very good either. In fact, near the end of the film, she generated a series of unintentional laughs from a good portion of the audience. At least we had Jennifer Beals as her mother to generate some beauty in an otherwise mediocre world. She had far less screen time than Mila, but her work is much better.
As emotional as this could have been, I didnt feel a thing. There is an emptiness here, but it sometimes managed to bring an effective fight sequence, even if we know the outcome beforehand. But somehow, I think this will manage to please a few, after all, Denzel Washington does his part and gives us a worthy hero to the sub-genre. And Im sure the heavy religious themes will probably bode well for some, and not at all for others. For me, this was a bland, yet occasionally pretty to look at ride. There are a handful of moments that shine, but Eli is forgettable nonetheless. However, I will say that the twist at the end worked for me, and aside from Oldman and Washington, there are a couple of cameos that made me smile. Tom Waits is always a treat to watch, even if the movie he is in is not. My rating 5/10 -- JimmyO
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