From 2009 to 2010 Denzel Washington stared in The Taking Of Pelham 123 and Unstoppable either side of making The Book Of Eli. In those films he gained weight in order to play an everyday man and one who works closely to trains. The Book Of Eli must have been a welcome break then as he had to shed the weight to play a loner walking the post apocalyptic world without a train in sight. We are used to seeing Washington in a variety of lead roles but here we manage to see a different side to him; he’s quiet, he’s lonely, and he’s hard as nails.
It opens then with Washington trawling the post-apocalyptic land alone. He shoots a cat for food later and hides out, listening to his IPod, in an abandoned house. In the morning he sets off again on his journey where he is ambushed by a group of hijackers who want his possessions. This is the first moment in the film where dialogue is really spoken, some eight minutes in. He manages to defeat this group with ease and continues on his way, arriving at a small town run by Gary Oldman’s Carnegie. When Washington (his name in the film as of yet unknown) enters a bar he argues with one of the locals and again manages to defeat a large group of people who intimidate him. Witnessing this Carnegie asks to see him and offers him a chance to join his mob, throwing in his hot step daughter Solara (Kunis) as a sweetener. Washington however still rejects and the following morning heads back on his way but his short stay in the town has brought to Carnegie’s attention that Washington is in possession of a book that he has been searching for since the apocalypse. When Carnegie’s men fail to stop him, Washington goes on the run with Solara trying to keep this good book that has guided him through the apocalypse. Whilst on the run we learn Washington’s name is Eli and that faith has lead him this far. This book he possesses could start wars and makes people God-like which is why he believes he has to protect it. This book is the Bible.
In my eyes the plot is very thin. All of this in search of a book so that people can become the ‘Messiah’. Being an Atheist I fail to really understand the importance of all this but I suppose if it is in your belief system you will get it. The film seems to be religious propaganda and trying to remind people that religion is not a bad thing. This is overly stated in the end which gives off a clear message of ‘to have faith’. I will come back to the end in a minute as I do think it is a big talking point of the film but first I want to continue with the plot. It opens strongly but it is something we have seen before. Washington shines in these opening few minutes and his presence made it all feel different. However when he reaches the town it all seems to go downhill and becomes a shoot out in a post apocalyptic world. This wouldn’t be so bad if it was done well but it takes so long to set up that all the shoot outs feel rather rushed and the pace changes drastically.
Character motivations are also highly flawed especially with Solara. Why would she leave her blind Mother in the hands of an evil gangster to run off with a loner? She reckons she will be safer but how wrong that turned out to be. Oldman’s Carnegie, although performed very well by Oldman, doesn’t feel mean enough to really be hated. All he wants is a book and that motivation just doesn’t seem enough, but that is probably my thoughts regarding the importance of the book.
The ending then was God-awful. It took me a while to grasp it as I worked out the twist and then decided that it can’t be right because the rest of the film would make little to no sense. Turns out I had got it right meaning the film became implausible. I took to forums to see what other people’s interpretations were and saw that people had devised theories to how it is plausible but I’m sorry, watch it again and you will see that it just doesn’t work.
The ending is not the only thing that brought this movie down; there were many issues I had throughout. The shots and visuals were too much like a music video and it was very distracting, the plot was weak, characters had unbelievable relationships and the music started well but become repetitive. Oh and Mila Kunis’ Sarah Connor impression at the end really didn’t work. It was a film that just lost me after about thirty minutes and it just got worse until it hit that poor ending.
Washington and Oldman are the respectable entries of this film. Everything else may as well just accept defeat. Washington brings a feel of isolation to the role, he may not be the most likeable character, but we really believe he is a loner whose only hope is this book. Oldman brings a sense of menace to a badly drawn character and in a lesser actor’s hands the villain would have been worse. I had been looking forward to this film for a while but it had too much religious propaganda for my liking and some fairly flat action sequences meaning that despite some decent performances this is one left unwatched, unless of course you want your own view on that ending.
2 / 5