The Book of Eli – review

The Book of Eli is really great:  it’s got the apocalypse, it’s got all kinds of murder and death with blood and rolling heads, and it’s got Denzel Washington saying profound things and threats from the Bible.  Denzel is the titular Eli, roaming the wasted deserts of America with the last copy of the Bible in his backpack and packing a razor-sharp machete, along with a sawed off shotgun and a rackety old iPod (when Denzel listens to that old song on his headphones, what a great montage!).  The movie really delivers a lot stronger than any of the other recent movies about the world ending, and keeps things moving fast for its considerable running time.

The layout of the apocalyptic junk in the desert is great.  I don’t understand why Busch would want to be the official beer of the apocalypse, but random product placement is no big deal.  The Road and Terminator: Salvation both went for this exact same look, and this movie blows them both out of the water with no problem.  A congestion of rusted cars in the desert is stacked just so; blasted highway bridges make great framing shots for a stoic Denzel wandering the wilderness.  Why can’t other movies get it right like this?  The usual suspects are here, too–road agents in goggles, motorcycle gangs, and the like.  An opening shot of Eli hunting makes for a great nuclear winter scene, but doesn’t quite match the overall setting.  Atticus Ross (Nine Inch Nails alum) does the soundtrack, and it sounds a lot like the last Nine Inch Nails album, all deep synth and pianos, which works well for this kind of movie.

We can only assume that, in this alternate universe, Sarah Palin became president and used the Bible as an excuse to start World War III, because the survivors have made it their business to burn the remaining copies.  Hey, it caused the war that burned a hole in the sky, we have got to get rid of every last single one.  Eli has to take his great copy of the Bible all the way across the country to find its rightful place.  Of course he runs into a town where head honcho Carnegie (Gary Oldman, doing his usual crazy bad guy routine) and henchman (Ray Stevenson, the guy who played Punisher) cause all kinds of problems with their band of goons.  Carnegie wants to use the Bible to expand his political power, justified by the Holy Book.

We all know where this is going, though Denzel wanders the town for a bit.  The gadgeteer shop owner is the Gyrocopter pilot from The Road Warrior, which the movie pulls from constantly in the last half.  He meets sidekick Solara (Mila Kunis) and her mom (blinded in the war), and beats up all kinds of grungy people at the bar.  Soon, Eli will talk with Solara about the rampant materialism of the world before, a nice subtext to the inevitable mayhem, which is well on its way.  Before long, it’s high noon in town, and the great action starts in earnest.  The shoot-outs are near flawless, the action is all top-notch production stuff.  This is all good; the action sets are well thought out, and the vehicle mayhem is real Mad Max stuff.

I won’t spoil the ridiculous ending, but it’ time to point out some of the really glaring issues.  First, Eli and Solara stop while walking through the desert to sleep in a nuclear power plant smoke stack.  This is stupid on so many different levels, it is hard to comprehend how it made it into this movie.  The inside of one of these smoke stacks has machinery and stuff in it, not a flat dirt floor and a fire place, and they don’t have random nuclear power plants standing next to the highway in the desert, and why would you sleep in a nuclear power plant, anyway?  It makes for great imagery, but it makes zero sense.  The next flub is when a 80s era Suburban flips nearly ten times.  After this, Solara starts the car up and goes on her merry way.  My family once owned this very vehicle, and I can assure you it would turn to trash and garbage in any accident.  I was also confused when Oldman’s goons started shooting a civil war era Gatling gun out the back of their armored truck.  I’ll ignore these problems for the higher points of the film–lightning flashing when Eli is shot, for instance, which is great in this kind of Biblical-themed material.

In the incredibly weak (by comparison) third act, we are treated to some awful green screen (they just can’t get it right in any movie ever) and a mustachioed Malcolm McDowell doing his usual shtick.  The studio must think the audience cannot follow anything, because Denzel does an awful monologue voice-over at the end which is awful, and that much worse because it is unnecessary.  The studio also has to throw in some political correctness at the end, when the Bible is placed on a shelf directly between the Torah and the Koran.  Clearly this movie cannot endorse Christianity as the one true religion, which the entire movie implies as a pretext, but that would be much too offensive for the delicate moviegoers.  This tacked-on crap is pretty ludicrous, and only touches on the big three religions.  And speaking of Christianity, I know a peaceful Prophet would make for a boring movie, but I don’t ever remember the Disciples cutting people’s heads off in Acts.  No, this is definitely a job for the Old Testament.

25 comments

  1. To the writer of this review, the time for peace has come to a close…Read revelations 11. The end time prophets are not peaceful. Thats the problem, people like to discuss the Bible without understanding.

  2. Ecclesiastes 3:1-3 — To every [thing there is] a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up [that which is] planted; A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;

    Rev 11:3-5 — And I will give [power] unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred [and] threescore days, clothed in sackcloth. These are the two olive trees, and the two candlesticks standing before the God of the earth. And if any man will hurt them, fire proceedeth out of their mouth, and devoureth their enemies: and if any man will hurt them, he must in this manner be killed.

  3. There are many copies of revelations, some written by insane folk, dont quote what you read on websites, you know nothing of religion.

  4. Jukes, you can’t be serious. You can’t just ignore every single one of the Beatitudes, which came straight from Christ’s lips, with a single quote from Revelations.

    You also can’t extrapolate my religious beliefs from a review of a B movie action flick. You’re right, how could anyone get any kind of a peaceful message from the New Testament? It’s all blood and guts and murder, thats what its all about.

    Is this movie about Revelations? No, it’s about Denzel chopping people up; take your ridiculous self righteous posts somewhere else.

  5. The gadget shop owner is played by Tom Waits, a musician. The gyrocopter pilot in Road Warrior is Bruce Spence.

    I pretty much agree with the review, but in addition to the horrible green screen, I wasn’t very impressed with the wide CGI vistas.

    ***SPOILERS***

    I also didn’t believe the set up at the end. There was nothing that made me believe that Solara could do any damn thing with that blade, much less carry on Eli’s mission. Hell, she couldn’t even run away from those two dirt balls out on the road. She’d have been killed before nightfall.

  6. Of course he was not blind…he was a 6th grade braille teacher along time ago.

  7. The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the iniquities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men. Blessed is he, who in the name of charity and good will, shepherds the weak through the valley of darkness, for he is truly his brother’s keeper and the finder of lost children. And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who would attempt to poison and destroy my brothers. And you will know my name is the Lord when I lay my vengeance upon thee.

  8. Jacque, I am aware of the deep creative ability that you must have in order to ponder such a series of events, namely the fact the he is, in fact, a 6th grade braille instructor. Though this would normally seem absurd, it does hold some weight. The one flaw with your argument is the fact that most public schools only begin teaching Braille 1 in the 8th grade.

    It is not uncommon for this misconception to be made, so you can rest assured that you are most likely not only the most beautiful woman in the entire world, but possibly the most intelligent as well.

    And yes, he was blind.

    Sincerely,

    C

  9. Jeff, my apologies about the gyrocopter pilot mixup. I stand corrected (damn they look alike).

  10. just my take on it, but i think he was blind but since he was on a “mission from god” he was granted sight so he could fulfill his mission. That or he had some supernatural hearing and smelling kinda like the guy from daredevil, which kinda makes sense cause he smelled the road bandits that tried to ambush him and he heard the buzzard he shot.
    Well anyway I liked the movie, wished it was a half hour longer so they could have expanded on more of a story regarding the war and the like.

  11. I TOTALLY AGREE WITH JEFF H. I JUST COULDNT BELIEVE THE ENDING WHEN THE STUPID GIRL WALKS OFF LOOKING ALL TOUGH AND COOL SUPPOSEDLY TO CARRY OUT ELIS TEACHINGS AND I GUESS REVENGE. SERIOUSLY WTF, AFTER NO MORE THAN PROB A COUPLE OF DAYS SHES SUPPOSED TO BE THE EXPERT WITH THAT KNIFE? WHEN JUST A FEW HRS AGO SHE WAS SO STUPID THAT SHE ALMOST GOT HERSELF RAPED AND GOT EVERYONE KILLED? (ELI AND OLD PPL IN THAT HOUSE) I JUST DIDNT UNDERSTAND WHY THEY WOULD HAVE A GIRL THAT ACTED LIKE A 5YR OLD IN THE FIRST PLACE? BUT WHAT CAN YOU EXPECT FROM HOLLYWOOD I GUESS…

  12. I guess if the idea that a blindman can be given a gift from above to travel across the country killing off bandits and highjackers (on blind faith alone)to complete a mission from God then a girl can walk out on that same blind faith to pickup his sword and pass on that same message.

    Ultimately I love the idea of this blind faith that you have to carry in order to be an Eli or to be anyone that would be willing to follow him.

    Harvestr I agree. I really enjoyed this movie. It wasn’t perfect but it’s easy to just let the imagination go and appreciate the message. Definitely wish it was longer to give more detail on the whole story.

  13. The girl spent a long time in Alcatraz, as the transcription of the entire Bible would have taken many months. It wasn’t a couple of days, so maybe she had some time for machete practice.

    Senzala, you have a good point, Eli was just a guy who worked at K-Mart, and look at the damage he caused!

  14. I love this Book of Eli. I am so amazed by the movie….Denzel Washington is still the best.

  15. Great fictional movie about the salvation of a great book of fiction! Well a great book of twisted truth atleast! Denzel has done a great job portraying a prophetic figure with a mission from the almighty to carry the last bible accross the states blind! A mission that most sighted persons would find difficult under the best of circumstances!
    I hope that the vatican view this film and consider writing a new chapter for the good book!

  16. I still haven’t had a chance to see this, and it is looking to be a great movie.

  17. Great movie review, this is definitely one of my favorite movies out today! I really enjoy watching movies with Denzel Washington!

  18. I really do believe he was blind although i do think that being he was blinded by the flash that in very bright light he could see a little. They make comments throughout the movie about the brightness of his rooms and when he wakes up in the mornings its usually to the sun shining brightly on him. But throughout the whole movie he says he smells or hears or feels something never sees. Example would be in alcatraz he says it “feels” like a museum, not looks like one.

  19. I also believe Eli was blind, maybe not totally blind as Sam has stated. This is a great movie and after seeing the ending and watching some of the action scenes it does seem that he could be blind and that just makes him even more badass. At the beginning he’s looking for shoes, but he doesn’t look for them on the skeleton in the car he feels for them. When he reads the bible his eyes are closed. He does seem to use his other senses a lot. I also agree that there is no way that Suburban would be driveable after being flipped. This movie is amazing and I was trying to find out the answer of if Eli was blind or not when I came across this blog. I say watch for yourself and take from it what you want.

  20. Great movie. I dont think he was blind. Denzel is a great actor and would’ve played a much better blind man. There was too much eye movement. Now the mother you can tell is blind. But I did enjoy the movie, the message was delivered and we need more like it.

  21. Stop being ignorant to the truth, humanity must break free we will no longer be their slaves.

  22. Awesome Movie i love Denzel he is a great actor and played his roll much better blind man. There was too much eye movement. I really enjoy this movie message was delivered i need more like

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