Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Book of Eli (2010)







In post nuclear America, half a generation has passed since the disaster and only the dwindling numbers of 'old-timers' recall life before the bombs dropped. One of these old-timers is Eli, a man with superlative combat and survival skills wandering the wastes (Denzel Washington). In his possession is a book, a book he reads every day and that he vows to transport somewhere. Somewhere a little vague and apparently inspired by God. Along the way he runs into a tin pot dictator, played by Gary Oldman, who wants the book for himself because it will grant him power over people with the power of  its words. Kind of scary. And yes, it's the bible. The last bible in existence actually after people went crazy and blamed all religions for the apocalypse - and rightfully so I imagine. So, in a nutshell, Eli claims a mandate from God to save the book that caused all the trouble in the first place.

On the evil side, Gary Oldman is the old-timer who understands religion's power to control people, and therefore represents the fundamental truth that no matter the best intentions of religious folk, there is an abundance of people out there ready to use religion for their own gain. The plot therefore sent mixed messages and annoyed the hell out of me. Meanwhile, the rest of the world no longer has religion and the people live tough, brutish lives. I'm pretty sure this was intentional. The unenlightened had few morals and some were on the way toward to bestial lives governed by pillage, rape and drunkenness.  Interpret that was you will.

In the end it boils down to this; Oldman gets his hands on the book after shooting Washington in the stomach - though this is after Washington kills pretty much all of Oldman's private thug army. Washington is then saved by a female hanger-on whose role in the film probably read 'look pretty, rescue Washington'. Oldman then discovers the bible is in Braille and so we're led to believe that Washington's character, Eli, was blind. Or at least I think we are, it's quite confusing. He acts like a man who can see most of the time (such as when he's looking over a cliff edge and watches a couple being attacked and raped by members of Oldman's gang), but the big finale with the braille bible thing seems to suggest he is blind. Personally, I don't think he was. If I'm wrong they handled it incredibly badly so it made no sense, added nothing spectacular to the ending and generally brought the overall tone of the movie down. 

Meanwhile in Japan, a new breed of superhero emerged to save the people of earth...
Meanwhile in Japan, a new breed of superhero emerged to save the people of earth...

Oldman of course cannot read the bible and then dies. Washington escapes to Alcatraz with his young poontang and then dictates the entire bible to Malcolm McDowell, the leader of an institution dedicated to collecting what they can from the ruins and kick-starting all of civilisation again. Naturally, only the Americans can achieve this. Washington then dies and the poontang wanders off to do fuck knows what. By this time I'd lost interest in the quasi-religious bunkum and prepubescent philosophy, so I kind of didn't watch the last 10 minutes properly. The institute then prints the bible according to Eli whereupon they take it to a book full of books and put it on a shelf with a bunch of other religious texts. A fitting place for it really, just one book among many.

I'm not sure if my feelings for the movie came across in that little synopsis so let me state it clearly - this movie was rubbish. Denzel Washington as Eli gave a passable performance, especially in the first 30 or so minutes when we see him journey across the wastes alone. Everyone else was average to mediocre, though the cookie cutter characters must have made life difficult for them. After that initial 30 minutes of interest the rest of the movie was as stated above, religious and pseudo-philosophical. Some people died, a book was sought and pretty much all the main characters died. A great set up and well constructed visuals, wasted on a muddled story so full of holes it leaked the credibility right out by the 60 minute mark.

The poontang ... perhaps an apocalypse can't be all that bad then?
The poontang ... perhaps an apocalypse can't be all that bad then?

I'll give this one two scores; 2/10 if Eli is blind, otherwise 4/10. At the least the beginning was entertaining.

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