A growing trend among Hollywood today seems to be apocalyptic movies, and is no exception. What sets this film apart from all the other apocalyptic thrillers is how it is able to find a deeper meaning through the use of religion, a prevalent theme throughout the whole movie.
Directed by Albert and Allen Hughes, takes place in a near future that is almost a direct warning of what would happen if a major atomic war had taken place. Denzel Washington plays Eli, a man who has been traveling west for thirty years since the big “flash.” Mentioned by several characters, this “flash” was probably a rip in the ozone layer caused by the atomic warfare.
In this future world, there is no civilization or law left. The roads are ruled by ruthless gangs who will murder people for as little as a pair of shoes or some water. People have resorted to eating cats and even accounts of cannibalism were sighted. The bleak highways are littered with rusted, deserted cars, and where grass and trees once grew there is now dust and desolation.
Eli’s mission is unclear at first, although we do learn that he is carrying the last single copy of the Bible on earth. This is because after the world was destroyed in the big war, people started to blame religion as being the root of all problems. As a result, every single Bible was burned. God helped Eli find the last remaining Bible and tells him he must deliver it west, where it will be safe.
Eli is determined to not let anything deter him from his holy mission. He does not seek violence, but when attacked, he fights back in a horrific way by killing anyone in his path. The scenes of violence are very graphic and definitely not appropriate for young children. Denzel Washington does a good job of playing this stoic character, although it should be said that the range of emotions Eli possesses is not very expansive and could probably be played by anyone.
While the movie certainly looks very depressing, don’t be discouraged. The film is not all about gloomy scenes and random acts of violence. Utilizing Gary Oldman as Carnegie, the manipulating and intimidating villain, the Hughes brothers are able to create an interesting story about the core of humanity and the battle between good and evil.
Eli first encounters Carnegie when he comes upon the rundown town ruled by him. Carnegie has built a small kingdom by selling precious water to his followers, using his knowledge of two underwater lakes to his advantage. He is obsessed with power and longs to find a Bible because he remembers how religion was able to move and control people in the old world. Using a Bible, Carnegie wants to recreate that same following with him at the helm. Gary Oldman does a wonderful job portraying this evil dictator.
Mila Kunis plays Solara, a young girl under Carnegie’s power who unknowingly informs Carnegie that Eli has a Bible in his possession and sets off the manhunt. Not only is Eli able to hold his own against Carnegie’s cronies, Solara eventually joins him on his journey west because her mother believes Solara will be safer with him than under Carnegie’s evil watch. Kunis does a good job of further breaking out from the comedic actress mold and establishing herself as a serious actress. However, it is quite unbelievable that her character seems to always be able to maintain perfect hair in this future world, where showers are a luxury of the past, and other female characters are running around with dreadlocks.
Another unrealistic feature of this movie is the fact that thirty years has supposedly past, yet Eli has still not reached the West coast. Eli attributes this over exaggeration of North America’s continental size to the fact that he doesn’t really know how to get there; he is letting faith guide him. Similarly unrealistic is that by the looks of the fictional world created in The Book of Eli, one would guess that the big war had happened a few months ago and not thirty years. You would think someone would have figured something out in thirty years so that people did not have to be terrorized at every turn.
Overall, this movie is very enjoyable and a good take on the apocalyptic sci-fi thriller. The ending involves a surprising twist and the themes of religion and human nature will definitely make you think.