Wednesday, 14 April 2010
FILM REVIEW: THE BOOK OF ELI
It's sad that it sometimes takes an inferior film to make you appreciate just how good another is. That good film would be John Hillcoat's The Road, the post-apocalyptic father-son film where my only misgiving was that it failed to move me emotionally. The inferior film is The Book of Eli, which is also set in a post-apocalyptic America but the comparisons mostly end there.
Eli (Denzel Washington) has been walking cross country for some 30 years, since the war which brought about the world's current state. While not elaborated on, it is suggested that war may have been religious in nature given that all copies of the Holy Bible (and presumably all other religious texts) were destroyed in the aftermath.
But Eli has a copy in his possession and wanders into a small township where the self-appointed leader, Carnegie (Gary Oldman), wants desperately to get his hands on the good book. It's a weapon, as he sees it, one he can use to rule. The Hughes brothers' (Allen and Albert) new film plays somewhat like a western: a wandering stranger drifts into a town governed by an evil sheriff; the wanderer's not looking for trouble but he's unable to avoid it.
And in this instance, he's also impervious to it. Eli has the reflexes of a psychic ninja, able to lop off limbs with his machete without breaking a sweat and somehow a natural deflector of bullets. The implication being that Eli has God on his side and is therefore invincible.
And if you don't find that idea irksome (even repugnant) than you may not have too much of a problem with the rest of The Book of Eli, where Washington's character firmly believes that the world's redemption lies within the pages of the Old Testament.
As propaganda for Christianity, The Book of Eli is some kind of success, but as a western or post-apocalypse film - or even entertainment, for that matter - it failed to convert me.