‘Eli’ a journey of faith
January 18, 2010 —
After nine years, the Hughes brothers finally make their return with The Book of Eli, their first major film since the 2001 release of From Hell,/i>. This latest film engages audiences in a post-apocalypse action adventure starring Denzel Washington as Eli.
Fresh on the heels of the The Road, another recent postapocalypse feature, The Book of Eli explores somewhat familiar territory with an original premise. The civilized world remains decimated 30 years after a great war. The face of the world has changed, though there are few details given concerning the nature of the events leading up to the beginning of the story.
The film centers on Eli as he journeys the ruined landscape from New Mexico to Alcatraz with the Book, a leather bound rarity revealed to be the Bible, supposed to be the last in existence. Eli struggles along the path given to him by a mysterious voice from within in order to preserve the Book.
Along the way, Eli encounters ruthless bandits, depraved cannibals and the merciless Carnegie (Gary Oldman) who is desperate to claim the Book. Carnegie and Eli appear to be the last people on earth aware of the Bible and its significance. The film alludes to the burning of Bibles after the war as people blamed religion for causing the conflict.
While Eli seeks to safeguard the Book for the redemption of humanity, Carnegie vows to use it to manipulate and rule over the remnants of mankind.
Solara (Mila Kunis), the daughter of Carnegie’s consort, assists Eli on his quest. Illiterate and seemingly pure of heart, she is receptive to the wisdom of the Book that Eli shares with her along the way. Before the conclusion of the film, Solara witnesses the final plot twist that brings to light the genuine miracle of Eli’s journey.
Eli engages in an interesting, yet too brief, social and religious commentary. The audience considers a world devoid of religion, specifically Christianity. The audience is impelled to judge the intentions that Eli and Carnegie both have for the Bible and its capacity to positively or negatively affect the human condition. The film also alludes to the material wealth enjoyed and taken for granted by contemporary America.
The film is dark, but it does not indulge in the same macabre pessimism as The Road. Scenes of the grey sky and barren landscape do more to communicate the mood of the film than the characters themselves. But the major characters, as well as the backstory, seem to lack development and specificity. While the actors perform well, their parts could be better written.
As an action movie, Eli does engage a certain amount of violence, but does not seem gratuitous compared to other recent Hollywood releases. Eli is primarily defensive – he fights to defend himself, innocents such as Solara, and the all-important Book. Carnegie’s violence highlights the depravity of humanity in the absence of a religious moral compass. Shootout scenes seem inspired by the western genre. Action reaches its height in hand-tohand struggles rather than special-effect extravaganzas.
While Eli is worth an attentive viewing, there is little to the film that would draw audiences back to another showing. The film is sure to entertain but not to be a cult classic or a renowned epic adventure.