Wednesday, July 07, 2010

The Book of Eli: Grade C

The Book of Eli (2010)
Denzel Washington, Gary Oldman, Mila Kunis; Directors Allen Hughes & Albert Hughes.

Stellar acting by Denzel pulls this movie up to average. Without his performance, it would be seriously sub-par. He is a solitary traveler (Eli) in a post-apocalyptic America, a sun-burnt wasteland that looks like the aftermath of nuclear war (few buildings left). He walks from town to town for no special purpose, reading his Bible when he can. Highway robbers of all sorts try to attack him for reasons unknown (they are presumably just mean) but fortunately he has deadly martial arts skills, a big knife and a short-handled shotgun, so he is in no real danger. And he apparently skipped right over that part in the Bible about not killing.

Eventually an evil gangleader (Oldman) discovers that Eli has a Bible and will do anything to get it. Why? So he can rule the world with its ideas. Hmmm. There isn’t much to rule, really, nor even much for his gang to do, but never mind. So it is cat and mouse focused around the Bible for a while. Meanwhile, a young woman (Kunis) who used to belong to the gangleader, runs away to travel with Eli, perhaps because he keeps saving her from the danger she chronically falls into.

It’s all silly nonsense. Water is a rare commodity in the future world but petrol is still plentiful, so the bad guys can race around in giant SUVs and motorcycles, all of them in remarkably good shape, implying not only a petroleum refining and distribution industry but also a thriving machine parts industry somewhere. Eli has to shoot pigeons with a bow and arrow for food, even though everyone in the picture is quite well fed. Oldman’s gang collects books for him but he just burns them because all he wants is a Bible. This overlooks the fact that the Bible is, and always has been, the most frequently printed book in history, so statistically, you would expect to find more Bibles than any other book. Oh well.

There is a Mad Max allusion with all the choppers screaming around a dusty green environment (why the atmosphere in the future is green is unexplained). And there is a significant allusion to the Sergio Leone spaghettis in the beginning.

Besides Denzels’ strong performance, the cinematography is attractive. Many of the shots are stereotypes, but quite a few are beautiful and creative. That’s worth seeing. Overall however, the acting is clunky, directing undistinguished, story laughable, dialog obvious and stilted.

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