Directed by Albert and Allen Hughes
A Lost Tale: Billy–animated short covering Carnegie’s backstory
Starting Over: Explore the role we might play in reshaping society after a global catastrophe
Soundtrack: Co-director Allen Hughes and composer Atticus Ross compare notes about the soundtrack’s construction and deconstruction
Eli’s Journey: Probe the historical and mythological roots of the film’s central themes
“Eli walks alone in post-apocalyptic America. He heads west along the Highway of Death on a mission he doesn’t fully understand but knows he must complete. In his backpack is the last copy of a book that could become the wellspring of a revived society. Or in the wrong hands, the hammer of a despot. Denzel Washington is Eli, who keeps his blade sharp and his survival instincts sharper as his quest thrusts him into a savage wasteland… and into explosive conflict with a resourceful warlord (Gary Oldman) set on possessing the book. “We walk by faith, not by sight,” quotes Eli. Under the taut direction of the Hughes Brothers (‘Menace II Society’), those words hit home with unexpected meaning and power.”
“The Book of Eli” is rated R (for some brutal violence and language.
I’ve always been a fan of post-apocalyptic adventures and “The Book of Eli” delivers on that front. We’re treated to a ruined environment where the sky rains ashes, highways are littered with wrecks and skeletons, and cities are utterly devastated. It’s a bleak world made all the more so by the de-saturated colors in the picture.
“The Book of Eli” also has some impressive action scenes. Eli carries a customized machete and uses it in some spectacular fights. And when he manages to get his hands on a gun, he’s all the more lethal. If you love knife fights or gun fights, you’ll enjoy this.
Then there’s the enigmatic Eli. He’s on a unique mission which isn’t revealed until near the end of the movie. Where did he come from? Where is he going? Why is the book he’s carrying so important? How did he become such an effective killer? Not all of these questions are answered, but they don’t all need to be to make him interesting. Then, towards the end of the movie, we’re treated to yet another dramatic twist about his character. It’s one that will make you want to go back and watch it again to look for the clues planted along the way.
The cast of this film is excellent. Denzel Washington proves he can handle action just as well as drama in his role as Eli. He does many of his own stunts and they are quite impressive. Faith is a central part of his character and it’s a side of him that will intrigue audiences, particularly Christian ones. While Eli fights on the side of angels, Gary Oldman fights on the side of the Devil as Carnegie. He wants what’s inside of Eli’s book and he intends to use it for his own selfish purposes. It’s an interesting commentary on how what’s inside can be twisted around and be used for evil. Mila Kunis is good as Solara, though her transformation at the end of the story seemed a bit abrupt. Ray Stevenson goes from playing The Punisher to this role as Carnegie’s enforcer, Redridge. He’s a villain played with a hint of a good streak and that makes him more three dimensional and realistic.
On the negative side, the movie is awfully slow at times. We get way too many scenes of Eli walking through the desolation looking cool. And the ending, however interesting, is a bit much to swallow. It would be extremely easy to pick it apart and expose potential plot holes if you felt in the mood to nitpick. That being said, I found it to be worth checking out.
Joel Silver was one of the producers and you can’t help but think he looked upon “The Hughes Brothers” as the next Wachowskis. They both used comic book artists to storyboard the films. They both created films that mix a big helping of spiritualism and action. They both co-directed and credited themselves as “The …. Brothers.” While “The Book of Eli” may not have caught on like “The Matrix,” I think these are going to be directors to watch in the future.
If you’re looking for a good action movie or if you’re a fan of Denzel Washington, then I’d recommend “The Book of Eli.” And if you’re a Christian up for R-rated action, then I think this is something you’ll enjoy on another level compared to other audiences.
The Blu-ray is jam-packed with bonus features. You can watch the film in “Maximum Movie Mode” where pop-up windows showing commentary, storyboard comparisons, and other goodies will appear on the screen. You can also watch some of the featurettes separately. They cover Eli’s machete, the storyboards, deconstruction of some of the action scenes, Eli’s fighting style, and more. Also included is “Starting Over” which discusses what might happen in the real world if the apocalypse struck. “Eli’s Journey” covers the themes featured in the movie both from history and mythology. Then there’s a featurette on the soundtrack by Atticus Ross. I found one of the more interesting featurettes to be “A Lost Tale: Billy”. This is an animated comic showing Carnegie as a child and explaining why he’s just as screwed up as he is and why he finds the book Eli carries to be so valuable. Rounding things out are some minor additional scenes.