The Book of Eli (2010) - DVD/Digital Copy Combo [Blu-ray]

Genre(s): Action / Drama / Thriller
Warner Brothers || R - 118 minutes - $35.99 || June 15, 2010
Reviewer: Brian Oliver || Posted On: 2010-06-02


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.:: F I L M ::.
The Film

S P E C I A L
.: F E A T U R E S :.

Special Features

.:: V I D E O ::.
Video

.:: A U D I O ::.
Audio

B L U - R A Y
.:: EXCLUSIVES ::.

Blu-ray Exclusives

.:: O V E R A L L ::.
Overall
.::MOVIE INFORMATION::.
Director: The Hughes Brothers
Writer(s): Gary Whitta (written by)
Cast: Denzel Washington, Gary Oldman, Mila Kunis, Ray Stevenson, Jennifer Beals, Michael Gambon


Theatrical Release Date: January 15, 2010


.::DVD INFORMATION::.
Supplemental Material:
  • Maximum Movie Mode
  • 10 Focus Points
  • Deleted Scenes
  • Animated Short
  • BD-Live
  • DVD/Digital Copy


Technical Information:
  • Number of Discs: 2
  • Widescreen (2.40)
  • English (DTS-HD MA 5.1), French (Dolby Digital 5.1), Spanish (Dolby Digital 5.1)
  • Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish

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.::THE FILM::.

The Hughes Brothers (Albert and Allen) make their return to the feature director’s chair after nearly a decade since their last film, From Hell, hit theaters in 2001. The Book of Eli is also only the fifth feature film from the Hughes Brothers and while I never was a fan of their previous works, From Hell included, I was a little surprised with Eli.

The Book of Eli stars Denzel Washington (who also executive produced) as Eli, a traveler or walker in a post-apocalyptic America where outlaws run wild, pillaging, raping and killing anyone who crosses their paths. Because of the blast that had killed or blinded a good portion of the population, there aren’t many older men or women, so Eli is a rare person with knowledge unknown to many of the younger generations. He also holds a treasured book of immense power not only to himself, but to a man named Carnegie (GARY OLDMAN), the mayor of a makeshift, Everwood-like, town; though even Everwood had more law and order...

The treasure Eli carries around is a book that we discover early on is in fact the last copy of the Holy Bible in existence (at least in America). Carnegie has been sending out roves of bikers in search of the Book as he believes that if he were in possession of it, he could rule not only the little town, but expand even further as the masses have never even heard of the Bible let alone the teachings within.

Eli escapes from Carnegie’s grasps and sets back onto his journey/mission to the West and tagging along, against his wishes, is Solara (MILA KUNIS) who wants to get away from Carnegie. Solara is like many of the younger generation not knowing much of anything about the past and also never learned to read. Unless I missed something, I’m not sure why she and others don’t know how to read since there are still books in existence, but I digress.

The Book of Eli surprised me not because of the cast since Denzel Washington and Gary Oldman rarely disappoint (The Unborn withstanding for Mr. Oldman and for the most part, Virtuosity for Mr. Washington), but I actually found the story to be far more interesting than I had expected. Admittedly, the film is pretty slow to develop early on with an opening sequence where there isn’t a line of dialogue for a good 10-minutes, but if you can stick with it, this sequence only helps flesh the movie out showcasing not only Eli’s isolation on his journey but the things he and others in this apocalyptic society must do to survive.

As I mentioned before, this is The Hughes Brothers first film since From Hell and although 9 years is quite the drought for the directors, it was well worth the wait as Book of Eli seems to be their most mature movie since their debut, Menace II Society. The brothers have created a world that is the same as others that we’ve seen in the genre, yet still very different to distinguish it from Mad Max or The Omega Man / I Am Legend. The landscape is harsh and the filters used to make it even harsher give it a texture that helps propel the film’s ambiance.

Outside of the directors, the big reason Eli even works is because of Denzel Washington as there are not many actors who have an immediate command of the screen as he does. One moment Washington can be a bad ass slicing down bad guys in seconds and the next he’s a soft spoken philosopher dispensing scripture or advice. He does it all and with relative ease. On the flip side, where Washington can play a great good guy, Gary Oldman is the ultimate bad guy that when you see him play someone good (like in the Batman movies), you get taken aback on just how damn good the man is. He’s described as a chameleon and that term still sticks here even if the part is a bit too one-dimensional for my taste but Oldman gives it his all and makes the role better than it really should have been.

The script was written by Gary Whitta, a former editor of PC Gamer, making his debut (and also has a thriller starring Kurt Russell in the works). The religious overtones are sure to offend some on both sides but I thought it was nicely done without going into the supernatural realm and kept things as realistic as possible in the apocalyptic landscape.

The supporting cast includes Jennifer Beals (“The L Word”), Ray Stevenson (Punisher: War Zone), Michael Gambon (Harry Potter movies) and Malcolm McDowell in an uncredited cameo role.



.::SPECIAL FEATURES::.

A Lost Tale: Billy (5:02; HD) shows Carnegie’s backstory through a motion comic book. Pretty cool as there’s very little dialogue.

Deleted/Alternate Scenes (1:53; HD) is just a few quick and short scenes that were, for whatever reason, cut from the final film. Nothing of note, just some glimpses like the cover of a TIME Magazine of the end of the world, Carnegie on his death bed while Claudia (Jessica Beals reads the book).

** BLU-RAY EXCLUSIVES **

Maximum Movie Mode – This is Warner’s Blu-ray Picture-in-Picture feature which shows some behind-the-scenes footage with comments by members of the cast and crew as well as some concept artwork and storyboard to screen comparisons. Using your remote’s arrow keys, you can skip forward to avoid any dead spots (and there are plenty of them). I should mention that this is merely a picture-in-picture track and nothing more. There is no interactivity like we saw with Terminator Salvation and Sherlock Holmes.

Focus Points (TRT 34:24; HD) are a collection of featurettes that crop up in the Maximum Movie Mode. You can watch them together as one long featurette or individually if you so choose. My overall impression of these is that they give some info into the making of the film but each one is relatively too short and I would’ve preferred a more expansive look at how the film was made.

The Look of Eli (3:32) examines the visual style and how the directors approached it from the conceptual artwork to the actual filming. The Hughes Brothers explain how they went about shooting.

Underpass Fight (3:11) – This featurette takes a closer look at the fight sequence in the underpass and how it was filmed via green screen and visual effects (blood/gore, body parts, etc). The fight was, however, done by Denzel himself.

Building Carnegie’s Town (3:16) – Another short featurette this time looking at how the Old West style town was built via concept artworks or storyboards. The bombed out town was created from a real town so kind of interesting to see how it was done, even if it was too brief.

The Motorcycle Brigade (2:59) – This featurette takes a look at the motorcycles made up to be more apocalyptic as they are comprised to look like they were put together using whatever material they could find.

Eli Goes to Battle (3:29) – Another fight sequence is chronicled, this time within Carnegie’s bar/HQ as Eli must take on several bikers all at once. Like with the “Underpass Fight” featurette, we get to see some of the fight choreography.

Eli’s Mission (1:54) is an extremely short featurette where the crew (the Hughes Brothers, the writer) and star chime in on the story, the character and his views.

Shootout at George & Martha’s (3:53) – Another stunt sequence gets a glimpse from the concept artwork/storyboards/pre-visualizations and how it was all set up. Like the other featurettes, the cast and crew throw in their comments on either the characters or the actual shootout (the first part of the featurette is on who the characters are).

Eli’s Weapon of Choice (2:15) is just a featurette focusing on the type of weapon (a machete) and why it was the best weapon for the character.

Solara Causes Mayhem (6:24) – Oddly enough this is bar far the longest featurette (nearly 2x longer than the longest one) takes a look at the sequence in the film when Solara causes a car crash and the actions after that. There is, of course, behind-the-scenes footage of the crashes. Most of the comments are from various crew members in the special effects/visual effects department.

Apocalyptic San Francisco (3:28) – The last featurette is about creating the matte painting of San Fran and how the creators approached it via concept artwork and visual effects. The crew talks about the importance of making the sequence different from what came before and how it worked into the story.

Overall, these featurette aren’t as extensive as I would’ve liked and is missing some key players as we only get a couple comments from Gary Oldman, a few more from Denzel Washington and absolutely nothing from Mila Kunis.

Starting Over (13:03; HD) – How civilizations live, die and are reborn again, plus what role we might play in reshaping society the day after the end of the world (description from menu). This featurette examining what kind of world it would be if society would collapse from the viewpoints of the cast (Washington, Kunis, Beals), crew and doctors/professors.

Eli’s Journey (17:54; HD) – Layered with moral complexities, this film asks many questions about humanity and what it will do to survive (description from menu). This is another featurette focusing on the Eli character and his journey in a world that is in chaos. The Hughes Brothers explain what drew them to the story since it had been years since their last movie, while other cast and crew members (including Washington, Kunis and Oldman) describe creating this world.

The Book of Eli Soundtrack (4:59; HD) – Co-director Allen Hughes and Composer Atticus Ross compare notes about the soundtrack’s construction and deconstruction (description from menu). As a fan of the score (I downloaded a few tracks from Amazon.com), I found this to be a semi-interesting featurette, though it is fairly dry.

Last up is a BD-Live portal and a DVD/Digital Copy combo disc.



.::AUDIO & VIDEO::.

The Book of Eli is presented in its original 2.40 aspect ratio and in 1080p high-definition. Since the film takes place in a post-apocalyptic America, all colors have been virtually wiped out and replaced with lots of rusty oranges and other organic visuals so it’s not going to be a pretty looking picture, but it is how they chose to shoot the film. I can tell you the detail levels throughout looks good and I noticed no remnants of any pixilation or other flaws. Although the movie may not have the pop compared with others, this is yet another solid HD transfer by Warner Brothers.

The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track is equally impressive providing some nice depth and range. The film’s opening 10-minutes is fairly quiet with only the haunting winds and some mumbles/whispers from Eli providing the sound contrast with a later scene in which Eli and Solara or under siege at a house with Carnegie and his gang outside firing a Gatling gun.



.::OVERALL::.

I’m not sure if The Book of Eli is a great film because it’s great or because my own expectations weren’t the highest outside that it stars Denzel Washington a.k.a. Mr. Consistent, but I will admit that for a post-apocalyptic film, in which they seem to be a dime a dozen, it works on most levels. The Blu-ray has great video and audio and although the features aren’t the greatest, if you enjoyed the film this is still worth the purchase price on day one.