It’s a boom crop for post-apocalyptic movies, and while I loved The Road, I’m hungry for something with a little more ass-beating and a little less quiet desperation. The Hughes Brothers’ new magnum opus The Book Of Eli looked to fit the bill. How did it stack up?
Right off the bat: The Book Of Eli has somewhat lower ambitions than The Road. But that’s fine – in a lot of ways, it reminds me of the Road Warrior series, with one good man against the forces of capitalist chaos that rule the wasteland. A mysterious event called the Flash has devastated the world, leaving most of humanity dead. Denzel Washington, as always, owns hard as Eli, a drifter walking west across America holding tight to what may well be the last Bible on the planet. He eventually comes across a town run by Carnegie (an excellent Gary Oldman) who is himself in search of Eli’s book. It’s no surprise what the book’s identity is (Going Rogue by Sarah Palin, SPOILER ALERT!), but the somewhat hokey plot device works as a motivator to get the two men in conflict. Throw in a damsel in distress (played exceptionally by Mila Kunis) and the stage is set for a gory, exciting showdown. Book of Eli also thankfully forgoes the idiotic Hollywood obsession with quick cuts in action sequences, using a number of different approaches to keep things interesting.
The thing that a lot of people were talking about as we left the theater was the movie’s climactic twist – a subtle revelation that leaves you rethinking everything you know about Eli. I’m not going to spoil it here, but the more you think about it, the cleverer it seems. Things like Eli never shooting first, to name just one example, all support the twist without giving it away. While some people felt it was implausible, I was able to run with it in the spirit of the film. The Book Of Eli is a fine picture of life and death after the collapse. Recommended.