The Book of Eli (2010)
|Genre(s): Action / Drama / Thriller|
|Warner Brothers || R - 118 minutes - $28.98 || June 15, 2010|
|Reviewer: Brian Oliver || Posted On: 2010-06-02|
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
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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.
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).
.::AUDIO & VIDEO::.
The Book of Eli is presented in its original 2.40 aspect ratio. As with many of Warner’s DVD releases of late, the picture tends to show plenty of artifacting throughout, most of which is fairly noticeable during darker scenes and as you can imagine, there are many in this film. That said, some of the close-ups looked good and the colors (or lack thereof) seem to match the director’s intentions.
Meanwhile, the Dolby Digital 5.1 track makes good use of the low frequency channels while the center and side channels are used for dialogue and side channels for ambient noises like winds and side action.
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.