By Dirk Sonniksen | January 15, 2010
Director(s): Albert Hughes, Allen Hughes
Writer: Gary Whitta
Starring: Denzel Washington, Gary Oldman, Mila Kunis, Jennifer Beals, Ray Stevenson, Evan Jones, Michael Gambon, Tom Waits
Eli (Denzel Washington) walks alone through a post-apocalyptic landscape. He carries something precious for the world, and faith is guiding him westward. Of course, no journey through such a ruinous world can be that easy. Enter the wretched, post-apocalyptic biker bandits that aim to be a very big thorn in Eli’s side. But wait, the bad guys need a king pin! Enter Carnegie (Gary Oldman), the intellectual giant in this land of cannibalistic nincompoops. Carnegie wants to rule the world, but Eli holds the key!
The Book of Eli could just as easily be a video game as a movie, with its creepy burnt-out sky, over-abundance of violence, rape scenes, and the films’ “start here, end there,” scenario. It’s essentially a western (and not a very good one) that doubles as a disaster movie, complete with a saloon and the upstairs office where all the evil plans are hatched. There is nothing original about The Book of Eli, down to it’s tired religious message, a device that will undoubtably appeal to a certain demographic.
Denzel Washington has very little to work with in this film, and in fact, has very few lines at all. Washington spends a fair amount of time with his back to the camera, walking around, looking tough, or slicing and stabbing Road Warrior-like zombies. Gary Oldman doesn’t fair much better as Carnegie. While one can appreciate Oldman’s ability to play the antagonist, Oldman’s character is nothing new in the world of evil foes, and ends up flat. The one beacon of light in the acting arena is Tom Waits as The Engineer, with Washington and Waits having more chemistry between them than any other actors in the film.
The Hughes brothers pulled out all the stops to make The Book of Eli as disturbing and difficult to watch as possible, and they succeeded, all the way down to the stark, piercing soundtrack. For those with a taste for violence, The Book of Eli will not disappoint. Unfortunately, the violence seems to be the main draw for this film. With so much energy devoted to achieving a certain level of brutality and a cinematic style to match, very little is left for character development. What we’re ultimately left with is an empty story and a waste of talent.