Saturday, January 16, 2010

Movie Review: The Book of Eli

Now this, this is the kind of movie I love! Post-apocalyptic, kill or be killed survival, and a kick-ass protagonist with a moral center. It also doesn't hurt to have an Oscar-calibre actor at the forefront, either.

The Book of Eli is a remarkably well-done flick, despite some grumblings from less attentive folk over the revelation of just what the title of the movie means. To me all the negative stuff I'm reading from over-adrenalized action junkies amounts to a bunch of spoiled brats not wanting the big motivating factor behind the main character boiling down to something as didactic as true faith and divine intervention. But, you know, sometimes you just have to believe that forces beyond human understanding are at work in the world. Both in the movies and in real life.

And that's as close as I'll get to a spoiler. See this movie and you'll know what I'm talking about.

And see this you should. I haven't been this entertained by a dystopian future action movie in a long time, and Zombieland doesn't count. From the very first opening scene, both haunting and beautiful in its cinematography and framing, I knew this film was something special. Denzel is in rare form here, drawing from his considerable talent as a dramatic actor to deliver what would otherwise be some pretty hammy dialogue in the hands of a lesser thespian. He plays the role of the warrior poet to perfection, and you have just GOT to see the fight choreography on this one! It's a sight to behold. Denzel's movements are so swift and fluid through the action scenes--so reminiscent of the old Japanese Zatoichi/Blind swordsman flicks that I dearly love. It's a certain brand of fight choreography you don't see much these days. And it worked brilliantly! I'm still buzzed over the awesomeness.

When the combat switches to bullets and explosive ordinance later on, however, the action falters just a tad. But I think this is a personal opinion, since I'm not as fond of shoot-em ups as I am slice-and-dice 'em ups! Ironically enough, I felt the credibility of the gunfights were compromised compared to the hand-to-hand and bladed combat sequences. But that's just me.

All the main players were on their A game, but high praise goes to Denzel Washington and Mila Kunis both. I'm really starting to like this gal. She doesn't take the stereotypical roles someone with her looks and youth usually finds themselves pigeon-holed into taking in Hollywood. Her roles are usually darker and more introspective, which I just absolutely LOVE. Can't wait to see where she goes from here.

The bad guys in here suffered the lesser hand. Gary Oldman was okay, but at times seemed to be phoning it in. Which is disappointing since I'm such a huge fan of his. Ray Stevenson seemed wasted as the right hand man, especially after getting his own starring vehicle in the most recent Punisher movie. I really would like to see him be more careful when picking future roles. Then again, a big profile movie like this one is bound to look good on the ole resume regardless.

But, yeah, watch this one for Denzel. He's the man, and you really should already know that going in. Also, Jennifer Beals is in this. I mean, come on! Who doesn't love them some Jennifer Beals? Even after all these years since Flashdance, she is still completely easy to look at and a wonderfully expressive actress to boot. While understated, her performance in this film is completely memorable. Her comeuppance scene at the end, in particular, is so beautifully done. Wow, you've gotta see it!

As usual in these types of movies, I find myself sucked in by the gritty survival aspects. I've talked about it before, but what attracts me so much to these apocalyptic films like The Road and I Am Legend is the theme of eking out a living in a land where law and order are antiquated niceties long forgotten. Where only your wits and bravery can see you through the storm. That stuff resonates with me, man! Don't know why, but it does.

Ultimately, though, this movie is about way more than survival and kicking ass. And what some viewers see as the film's weakness, I see as its greatest saving grace (no pun intended). I really dig the ending, and the so-called "big reveal" that comes with it. But more importantly I found the film's questions on faith and God to be very poignant and moving. Which is a big deal for me to admit to, given my agnostic distrust of the Church and the book its centered around.

In the end, The Book of Eli is one of those films that will probably not receive a lot of praise from the action crowd, but should be well-received by Denzel fans and folks who don't mind a little more philosophical exploration of the human condition thrown in with their popcorn movies.

I fall into the latter camp, and I cannot praise this film high enough.

Rating:  9/10


  1. Went and saw this tonight with my daughter. Thought it would be scary - it wasn't. This isn't my type of movie overall. However, my daughter really liked it. I'm not into apocalyptic movies - unless they are zombie movies. Horror doesn't seem so possible.

    But, I really enjoyed Denzel and the overall message.

  2. I liked it more for not having zombies or other horror elements. It would have detracted from the true message of the film, and that was best delivered in a world where only humans are the monsters (to each other).

  3. Hey David. I saw the movie on Sunday, and will say I did enjoy it. And like you said, Denzel Washington is amazing in it. He truly is one of the best actors I've seen. The story is really interesting too. It follows a strict path, travelled by our character, so that path was well defined as the place in the west. I did like the "big reveal" in the end of the movie. And of course, religion, bibles, and faiths are a touchy subject, deep in its message, and this movie is a kind of "new religion", or rewritten, by the words of a new powerful, African American christ in Denzel's character, and his first apostle, being the girl. I thought it was a clever movie, but I wouldn't say I loved it entirely. I enjoyed it mainly because Denzel is just such an amazing actor, and portrayed the character so well, that I followed it through, and clung to his character, having faith in the fact that he would guide us through the movie! The movie reminded me a lot of Mad Max, and the fight scenes were awesome. The apocalyptic version here is really interesting. If anything, I'd hoped for some more story, I'd actually liked to have seen some exposition here, possibly in a montage of destruction in the beginning, but then that would be cliche. I'll be honest that I thought a lot of the movie Terminator Salvation, because it followed our character, mainly Marcus in the movie, through the story. Both are very tight stories. Maybe if I see Book of Eli again, I'll appreciate it, because after all, it is a daring movie to make. That alone should be worth seeing the movie. Talk to you soon David!

  4. Seems to me you liked it plenty much as is, Dion. So no worries.

    The film worked particularly well for me because of how much I absolutely can't get enough of post-apocalyptic type settings. You have to mess up pretty badly in such a movie to get me not to like it.

    The Resident Evil films come close to making me hate the genre, though. But that's more my gamer's bias talking.


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