14 February 2010

The Book of Eli


Denzel Washington, Gary Oldman, Mila Kunis, Ray Stevenson
Gary Whitta

The Hughes Brothers

15 January 2010

Warner Bros., 118 mins., Rated R

The apocalypse is all the rage these days. Don't get me wrong, vampire/werewolf/dumb-ass-teen girl romances are still the IT thing of the decade (and now Angels seem to be getting a resurgence in literature), but a lot of End of the World type stories are getting produced these days, at least more than normal. The most obvious and typically brought up comparison is The Road, that film that I still haven't seen and was hardly shown in theaters after sitting shelved for more than a year. And zombie movies - which basically all deal with a post-apocalyptic landscape where it's all 'fend for yourself! Only the strong survive!' And then there's the stories of a character or characters trying to avert a apocalypse, fighting baddies and sometimes goodies. The Book of Eli is set in a post-apocalyptic world where it's dog-eat-dog, yah dig?

This is a story about a man and his book. He loves his book so much, that if anyone tries to take it or touch him, he slicies their fingers right off. Or he resorts to lightning-quick kick-assery. The power hungry Carnegie is looking for a special book, a book that will make him even more powerful, and it just so happens Eli is in possession of this book. A pissing contest ensues as Carnegie does his damnest to persuade Eli to hand over said book, but Eli doesn't give, and so much kick assery ensues.

Notes & Reflections (Spoilers)
I remember sitting in the dark theater many year ago watching the Hughes Brothers previous outing, From Hell, and being absolutely terrified the last 20 or so minutes. I will always recall the intense feeling of 'what's going to happen now?' and 'when the frak will Johnny Depp find Jack the Ripper?' The jeopardy, the sense of dread each day as the sun fell and darkness spread over London. But I will also always remember the style, the cinematography, much in the same way I'll remember The Book of Eli for it's plenty of slow motion, desert walking shots of Denzel Washington looking as badass as he always does. However, the emotional attachment to the film isn't there.

Which probably isn't the fault of the Hughes Brothers completely. It really seems like this is a project they were passionate about. Beautiful cinematography that fully capitalizes on its desert scenery, and uses the dry, rugged landscape of Carnegie's town to its own visual advantage. There's plenty of scenes dedicated to exploring Eli's character, his motivations, his sense of personality, although the same couldn't be said for Mila Kunis and her Solara character. Speaking of Solara, it was nice to see her character (apparently) transform from the tossed around ragdall to a gal who wants to follow in Eli's footsteps. But at the same time, women, it seems, always become slaves to men in power in post-apocalyptic worlds: always objects of sexual gratification, never in league with men. It's a tired concept that I'd like to see go bye-bye.

If Denzel's not your cup of tea, than Gary Oldman absolutely steals the show. Crazy, single-minded, determined, calculating - Carnegie is a character to be reckoned with, and I can honestly say there was a sense of jeopardy in some of the situations, something that doesn't always come across in flicks with big-name actors as our protagonist.

Action isn't the movie's prime goal, per se, but when it erupts, it goes bonkers. I'm thinking particularly to a scene with Dumbeldore, his wife, Eli, and Salora locked in a raggedy ol' house with Carnegie and his goons blasting it with bazookas, ammo, and anything else they can find. And then there's the moment between Eli and Carnegie, and whenever these two actors/characters square off, The Book of Eli is grand.

The biggest offender to the movie, and this still boggles me a month after seeing it, is the 'totally unpredictable OMG! twist' at the near end, when Carnegie seems to be victorious, and Eli reveals a little something about himself that makes no sense with a first viewing, let alone a second.

But fun was still had. Eli could very much be one of those movies where the actors' powerful presence is strong enough to nearly overlook the flaws of the script. And for the most part, it's successful. But then the lame-ass twist comes, and the illusion of a grandiose movie comes crashing down, and The Book of Eli isn't as spectacular as it once was.

Awesome Scene of Awesomeness
Eli just wants a cup of water, and some dumb drunk has got to make things complicated. Losing patience, Eli tries to talk some sense into this dude rather forcefully, but that doesn't go well with all the other people in the pub. They wants a fight. Reluctantly, with sadness, Eli prepares himself for some slicin' and dicin'. I wonder who comes out the victor...

Final Verdiction
A wonderful waste of two hours, but post-movie, when you're sitting in your car or eating some delicious pancakes at Perkins with some buds and you're actually thinking about the movie, it kinda does hold up. And then there's that ridiculous 'twist' ending that doesn't really make a lot of sense, even after watching it a second time (or else I'm extremely blind to the clues). But at the end of the day, despite the movie's attempt at meaning, it really is a powerhouse showcase of Denzel Washington fighting the good fight, and us loving him for it.

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