Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Book of Eli (2010)


A mysterious wanderer, Eli (Denzel Washington), with a package he must protect arrives at a small town in a post-apocalyptic USA. Carnegie (Gary Oldman), the town's leader, desperate in search for the one book he believe can give him the ultimate power to rule becomes obsessed with Eli when he learns he may have the book.

"People had more than they needed. We had no idea what was precious and what wasn't. We threw away things people kill each other now."

A journey film, much in the same vein as The Road Warrior, The Book of Eli is an action/adventure film with enough oomph to get it going, but not enough staying power to carry the finale. You see, The Book of Eli is a religious film. And by religious film I mean there's a lot of religious talk about "the good book" until it becomes inconvenient, and decapitations become far more necessary for plot development. Then after that's all said and done, it can return to its talk about nonviolence, helping others, and the like.

You see, it's that same element of inconsistent morality that plagues far too many films. Violence, or more importantly cool action sequences, supersede the overlying message. Here in point, that people need the Bible, because without it violence will run rampant. To display this the film picks a character who is incredibly talented with violence to show us how violence is wrong. Confused yet? Yeah, don't worry about it. The movie doesn't really care either.

And in that the movie actually manages to become a bit fun. Sure, there's the message and all that jazz, but Eli is far more of a film about the journey, and characters, than anything else. And that's where it really fires the hit and miss shots.

Washington and Oldman shine as the two battling minds of the film, with Mila Kunis supplying solid supporting role. While, as seems to have become more and more common, Tom Waits, Michael Gambon, and Jennifer Beals pump up the film's weaker supporting cast with recognizable faces. The downside being they probably combine for 20 minutes of screentime.

Now I don't want to sound like I'm too down on the film. It's just one of those cases where it's weaker elements are far more prevalent than its stronger ones. The action scenes are quite nicely, the dialogue is kept in fine form, without getting too hokey, while the characters develop believably. The cinematography and shot composition shine, bringing the barren wasteland world to light. Supporting the underlying plot elements that develop as the film progresses.

All of which offer the viewer a passably entertaining time. Just not one really worth the effort of expending any money on.

Despite some strong filmmaking, and creative action scenes, The Book of Eli suffers in the face of a plot unable to stabilize itself. It develops well enough that it doesn't bore, but it doesn't take much observation to realize it's standing on quicksand. And as the film progresses, it only sinks more and more. No matter how hard of a fight it manages to put up.

6 better thoughts:

Ryan McNeil said...

I liked this movie a lot more than you did, but I think that comes down to low expectations combined with focusing more on the action than the message. Still - this movie is better than a 5/10

The fact that the story had a message just made it a bit more enjoyable since I was expecting silly post-apocalyptica.

I vote you go back to my review (and/or Matineecast episode five) and look to disagree with me.

Candice Frederick said...

hmmm...interesting. honestly i ca't wiat to see ti. ti's in my netflix quue now. your review actually made me want to see it more. the ambiguous intrigue...

Simon said...

It was okay...I thought Mila Kunis was a bit miscast.

Univarn said...

@Mad "Still - this movie is better than a 5/10" - in your opinion :P. I went back to your review and commented since I've now seen it. Doesn't change my mind on the film one bit, sorry.

As for action, the second someone throws out the religious flag my mind gets zones in on what it's trying to say. Force of habit really.

@Candice Well there's a reason I didn't win (or even place) for best movie reviewer in the LAMMYs. My reviews apparently lack the ability to get across what I intend of them.

@Simon I know my review came off rather harsh, but as I said that's because my dislike for what it did bad greatly outweighed my like for what it did incredibly well. Sort of a personal preference thing. But I'd say, for me at least, a 5 is "eh, ok"

Red said...

I think I liked it a bit more than you did, although I agree with most of your points. I thought the ending was a little dull and could've used a little fixing.

Reel Whore said...

My opinion of Book of Eli is about in line with yours. It was an average film at best. Washington & Oldman are great in their roles, but it needed more plot to fill its run time. As it is, there are huge gaps with lots of walking around and little happening. The constant dialogue about the importance of the book just became dull and repetitious. I don't think I was hoping for more action, but more of anything would have been nice.

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