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Starring: Denzel Washington, Gary Oldman, Mila Kunis
Writer: Gary Whitta
Directors: The Hughes Brothers
Company: Warner Bros. Pictures
I was originally skeptical when I heard about The Book of Eli, the new film directed by The Hughes Brothers (From Hell). After playing cop after cop after cop for so many years, Denzel Washington was the last person I wanted to see on my screen. However, I am a sucker for post-apocalyptic movies and after missing out on The Road thanks to a limited release date, I settled for this. I'm happy to say that The Book of Eli is a damn good movie.

Washington stars as Eli, a wanderer who after being told by a mysterious voice, is heading west to bring a book to people who or may or may not be there. This isn't just any book, however; this is the Holy Bible, the last one of its kind after they were all burned after the war that created the dystopia. Eli stops in a town to fix his radio and runs into the town's leader Carnegie (Gary Oldman), a madman who wants the book in order to control the people in whatever image he wants them in. After narrowly escaping their clutches, Eli continues west with them in pursuit and an unlikely companion in Solara (Mila Kunis), the daughter of Carnegie's love slave and who is looking for answers herself.

I have never seen From Hell, nor do I ever plan on it. The Hughes Brothers, however, proved to be quite the filmmaking duo. The Book of Eli keeps you hooked through the whole film, never once compelling you to look at your watch or make up a shopping list in your mind. Visually, the film looks very bleak; the land is all desert, the people are dirty and unkempt, there seems to be no hope anywhere. It is very appealing to the eye and I couldn't help but marvel how great it actually looked.

The Book of Eli could have easily fallen if the cast was not right, but low and behold, that is also not the case. Washington is absolutely great as Eli, a man who is solely controlled by his mission and his faith. He is not just a man who is carrying the book; he believes in the book and he believes in his mission. To him, this is a mission handed down to him by God and he will do anything to keep it safe. This includes murdering people who try to kill him and steal the book, and make no mistake, he kills a lot of people. This has an R rating for a reason and the Hughes Brothers let Denzel kill in bloody ways. Heads go flying, blood splurts out from gunshots, and it's not excessive. It's just right.

Gary Oldman is always great, and this is definitely no different. He plays his usual hammy villain, which reminded me of his turn in The Professional all those years back, but more deranged. He is the perfect foil, a madman who does not have faith, but wants to use the book for the evil means that got everyone in this post-apocalyptic mess in the first place. The Book of Eli also features a cameo by Tom Waits, and if I have to explain why that's awesome, then you're too square to understand. Hell, even Mila Kunis is great in this, and she's never really done good film work. My only annoyance with the film had to do with some dialogue issues, namely the use of "the world before" to talk about the pre-war America. It's just hokey and lame, and sticks out.

The Book of Eli is a movie about faith and how faith can drive a man who do things that could not be possible otherwise. It has a good message hidden in there, with some great action mixed in with a story that hooks you in. It's a living breathing world you can believe in and be haunted by. Even if Denzel Washington has been boring you like he has me since he decided playing a cop was all he cared about doing, this movie is still worth a watch...and keep your eyes peeled because there's a minor twist that'll have you wondering how you missed the clues.

Final Verdict:
B

 


E.R.
03/08/2010 02:33

Loved this movie.
Although I have to disagree with your review of Oldman, (I found his portrayal of Carnegie rather generic and uneventful) Washington is, as always, a delight to watch. Many times throughout the movie, flashbacks from the Video Game Fallout 3 kept popping up. Definitely had some of the most unique film editing, production design, and cinematography that I've seen in a while.

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03/16/2010 23:53

I actually hadn't played Fallout 3 until after I saw the movie, but after playing it and reading your comment, I definitely noticed some similarities. I still dug Oldman, he's the king of chewing scenery (see The Fifth Element for proof).

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