Beginning at the end, The Book of Eli is a stark, beaten, and stagnant world, one that has fallen into utter disarray and disrepair. The ash that rained from the sky now sullies the landscape and everything is hard, cold, carbonized, and dead. Civilization has not become the shadow of its former self, it is the new cautionary tale. Squabbling in the streets, the desperate look for any means to survive, even preying off one another like so many vultures. Death is quite literally, behind every turn. Amidst the insanity, a single man, Eli (Denzel Washington, The Taking of Pelham 123, American Gangster) has apparently been tapped to complete a quest, the means of which he does not know, but the end he is dead certain of. If the human race is to fight back from the brink of its own destruction, he must succeed and deliver a sacred book to a place in the distant West, long considered a barren wasteland devoid of life and of hope. Bringing with him a slavish devotion to his quest, his parcel, and the apparent training of a Black-Ops Commando, Eli forges across what was once America. All the while fending off hijackers, tyrants, psychopaths, and cannibals, safe in his mission and in his faith.
There are few people who made it from the Old Days, and every year they are rarer still. Those that survived the flash, can still read, write, subsist, and survive. They carry the knowledge of the old world with them, walking remnants of history. As most books were destroyed after The Great War, those who know their power find themselves the apex predators in a land unfit and dying. The people will look to any leader and the vicious and amoral Carnegie (Gary Oldman, The Dark Knight, The Harry Potter Series), a man from time gone, has the skills, knowledge, and ambition to be just that man. Seeking a copy of the Bible, he desires to use the scripture to dominate the feeble minds of his fellow man. Being one of the few who still knows where the nearest major water sources are, he holds the shanty town he constructed with an iron grip, a seething testament to man’s unwillingness to give up personal power in favor of his species’ survival.
And as these two men of great conviction and faith in their own personal missions clash, much blood is shed and it is proven once again that the mind will always be the greatest weapon in the face of obstinate ignorance. The question here being: which is greater in its capacity, faith or realism?
Driven by fluid and brutally dynamic sequences of combat and a haunting score that reflects the environment it envelops, the Hughes Brothers weave a reimagining of the “Lone Warrior” tale, both modern and instantly identifiable. With added flavors of the classics Yojimbo, Lone Wolf and Cub, and A Boy and His Dog, this tale of woe is brought to its epic conclusion in a way I never expected. Devotion is a hard thing to come by and the weight of such can be emotionally overpowering.
Trailed by the beautiful, young and post-apocalyptically educated Solara (Mila Kunis, Extract, Max Payne) and supported by the excellent performances of resident Hollywood “bad-ass with a heart” Ray Stevenson (Punisher: War Zone, Outpost) and the always stunning and phenomenal, but rarely-seen, Jennifer Beals (TV’s Lie to Me and The L Word), ‘The Book of Eli’ is a classic tale, a hardbound novel well worn and greatly enjoyable. If you’re a major Denzel fan, you may find yourself wondering where the Mr. Washington of ‘Philadelphia’ and ‘Remember the Titans’ has gone, long lost to the images of ‘Man on Fire’ and ‘Training Day’, but this is the icon at his best, portraying a dark figure amidst even darker surroundings.
The Book of Eli
Better Than: Black Robe
Not as Good As: Lone Wolf and Cub