Genres / Traits:
Action, Psychological Sci-Fi, Sci-Fi Action,
In a post-apocalyptic America where the once-picturesque countryside has become a desolate and violent wasteland, one man fights to protect that sacred tome that could hold the key to the survival of the human race.
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Prior to this evening, I really didn't know much about The Book of Eli. I had heard the title before and I knew that Denzel Washington was attached to it, but thanks to the fact that I don't watch broadcast television, I had never seen a trailer for it or even heard what the story was about. Then, I saw an advertisement for it on Xbox Live with a link to a trailer, and I thought it might make for a fun night in front of the tube. Sure, it looked disposable, and granted, it looked like mindless entertainment... but again, I thought it could be a decent night in front of the tube. Now that the credits have rolled, I think that "decent" would be the most polite word that I could use.
Review by Chad
Added: June 23, 2010
The story takes place "thirty winters" after a nuclear war, and we discover that the world has been transformed into a barren wasteland with only the odd group of raiders and thugs to occupy it. So basically, it's your typical post-apocalyptic setting. Anyway, one of the survivors is a man named Eli (Denzel Washington), a rough-and-tumble fellow who is traveling west with some undisclosed goal in mind. All we know about him is that he can take down an entire gang of hoodlums in mere seconds with his machete, he's a crack shot with his pistol, and he loves to read his bible.
His journeys eventually take him to a small town set up by some of the other survivors, and there, he meets a man named Carnegie (Gary Oldman). He also meets an engineer played by Tom Waits in a great cameo, but that's not exactly important to the plot. Anyway, we soon discover that Carnegie has been looking for a particular book for the last thirty years, and we also learn that he is almost desperate to find it. When he learns that Eli is carting around a bible, we realize that that holy book is what Carnegie has been seeking... but Eli isn't too keen on giving it up. Eli leaves the town with a young lady named Solara (Mila Kunis) in tow, Carnegie and his ruffians give chase, and we have ourselves a film. Oh, and watch for a cameo by Malcolm McDowell - good stuff.
Just from watching the trailer, I got the impression that this would be a disposable action flick: light on the story, acceptable-at-best acting, and lots of explosions and gunfights. I popped this movie in with the intention of shutting my brain off and watching some shit get blown up and watching countless bad guys get shot to death, but that's really not what the film offered. That's not necessarily a good thing.
You see, the film tries to come across as a legitimate take on life in a post-apocalyptic world, and it tries to give a serious look at a man and his quest to bring religion back to the world. I'm all for that - I'm not a religious man myself, but I can get behind a good storyline regardless. The problem here is that the filmmakers weren't sure if they wanted to make a statement or make a disposable action flick, so they simply tried to do both in the same movie. This leads to a movie that is too "serious" to make for a good action flick, yet at the same time, there are too many cheesy explosions and shoot-outs to leave room for much thinking. I would have been fine with either take on this subject, but mixing them both together did not work.
Oh, and then there's that twist ending. I caught onto it fairly early thanks to a scene that all but spelled it out, but I won't reveal it here in case some of you are a little slower on the uptake. This twist really hurts the film, in my ever so humble opinion. You see, it's a twist that is technically supported throughout the entire movie, but I do mean "technically"... and I might even tack a "loosely" onto that. There isn't any one scene that you can point to and say "Well, this happened here, so the twist doesn't make any sense", but it is highly unlikely and very unrealistic. I know, it's silly to expect realism from a film dealing with a post-apocalypse world where water and lighters are the new currency, but there do have to be some rules. The twist and its implications are something along the lines of a guy winning the lottery five times in five months. Impossible? Not at all, but highly improbable.
How about the product placement? Now, I can usually ignore a sly Pepsi can or Burger King sign and I rarely even bring it up in my reviews, but this film just went overboard with it - it was almost as if the entire budget came from product placement, which is a bit silly given that it's supposed to take place in a world where everything has been destroyed. Let's see, Motorola gets a nod, an iPod gets plenty of screen-time, there's KFC products being used as currency, Dan Brown novels, designer sunglasses, Oprah's magazine, Puma, GMC, Busch, and plenty more are all shown throughout the running time. This, in a world where Eli's precious bible is quite possibly the last one in existence?
The one positive here is the acting. Denzel Washington really makes the film work better than it should have, and as always, he plays a damned convincing character. In lesser hands, the film would have been even more laughable than it ultimately was. Gary Oldman also delivers a great performance, playing the perfect villain to Denzel's perfect hero. Hell, even Mila Kunis does a decent job, but she quite obviously isn't in the same league as her male costars. She got a thumbs up from me regardless. They all do the best with what they're given, but unfortunately for us, what they were given wasn't very good.
Overall, The Book of Eli is average at best, and that's being kind. The world presented here looks great, there are some decent action sequences, and the storyline had plenty of potential, but the execution just wasn't there. Perhaps this would have been something special in the hands of a more talented director, but as it stands, it's barely worth the price of a rental. 4/10.
- added 06/23/2010, 11:33 PM
I agree with most of what you said, but I still
enjoyed it more then you. The biggest problem for
me was how it ended, I could go more into it, but
I won't spoil for those who want to watch this and
it has nothing really to do with the twist. 7/10
- added 07/21/2010, 11:43 PM
Problems start with the
first computer assisted color-filtered opening
shots... just because you drain the color
saturation from an environment doesn't necessarily
make for a convincing "apocalyptic"
You want to see a really desolate
world that doesn't simply look like an abandoned
warehouse lot with a sepia toned gel over the film
frame? Watch "The Road".
never seen such clean undershirts in a
else is strictly by-the-numbers... Denzel does the
best he can with the ham-fisted "man on a
mission who speaks in cool one-liners" act he
has to maintain throughout the film's runtime.
Mila Kunis is simply awful... but she really
didn't have a ton to work with. Gary Oldman
continues to wear out his welcome with yet another
totally over-the-top performance unworthy of his
true acting talent... embarrassing really.
The story is so lame and predictable it
hurts me to think about it... so I won't waste
your time by picking it apart when the reviewer
above gives a fairly astute depiction of why the
story doesn't work. This, apart from some
incredibly stupid and unbelievable narrative
choices, make it almost impossible to take this
overly maudlin and self-important film seriously.
I mean... when I finally hunt down, shoot, and
defeat my greatest nemesis... it simply doesn't
make any sense to actually fucking CHECK to see if
he might not be dead, right? Ugh.
all this to one of the most unconvincing and
ridiculous twist endings in recent film history...
and you have a swirling shit-storm of film that
actually hurt my eyes to get through. The last
scene alone gave my oldest cat diabetes...
- added 07/22/2010, 12:04 AM
I think I liked this mainly because I enjoy
Denzel as an actor and I want to stick it deep
inside of Mila. I think the movie started really
going down hill when they were on the run and the
scene in the raft pissed me off.