Wednesday, 20 January 2010

The Book of Eli

Cast: Denzel Washington, Gary Oldman, Jennifer Beals, Mila Kunis, Tom Waits

Plot: A post-apocalyptic tale, in which a lone man fights his way across America in order to protect a sacred book that holds the secrets to saving humankind.


It's a shame the new film from the Hughes brothers was released so close to 'The Road', despite being apocalyptic thrillers they both are very different films, however the similarities in visuals and plot are unfortunate.

The films' opening is mysterious and taught, there is no major dialogue to speak of until the 15 minute mark.
We follow Denzel Washington's lonely drifter as he does what he can to survive, he takes clothes from corpses, kills any animal he can for sustenance, and kills anyone who
threatens him on his path.
The film plays very much like a futuristic western, Washington's character isn't far from Clint Eastwood's 'man with no name' in Sergio Leone's 'Dollars Trilogy'. This could have been a throw away assumption if it wasn't for a character's whistling of the famous Ennio Morricone score from Leone's 'Once Upon a Time in America'. There are plenty of standoffs in which Washington takes apart many men skillfully with his machete, one standoff is in a bar ran by the evil Carnegie (Gary Oldman). It is that scene that gets the meat of the story rolling.

The film is extremely well directed, a lot of the film is shot using long tracking shots and in a huge gun battle towards the end of the film the direction is breathtaking. It is worth seeing the film if only for that one scene. It is these mentioned sequences that make the film interesting to watch, the film isn't a full on action film by any means but when the action arrives each scene is shot with originality and intelligence. It is worth noting that Washington did all his hand to hand combat stunts himself and was trained by Bruce Lee protege Dan Inosanto.

Despite all the incredible choreography on display it is the films' story that is its' weakness. The story is compelling throughout most of it but towards the end becomes weaker and weaker, the ending is something I cannot go into but you'll have to make a leap of faith if you want to enjoy it, it is slightly unbelievable and will divide people.
Though the films' ending lets it down somewhat, all that comes before it makes up for it. The theme of religion being used as a weapon in a secular society that needs faith is a scary realisation
of how we need religion and culture to survive and stay civilised but also of how powerful religion is in the wrong hands.


'The Book of Eli' comes across like a mix of 'Mad Max' and 'Once Upon a Time in the West', it has an interesting concept on faith and religion that feels like a positive message rather than being preachy.
The ending was unfortunately weak but is saved by some inventive action sequences and the always brilliant Denzel Washington. The casting of Gary Oldman felt a tad forced as despite a great performance it felt like a rehash of past played characters.
'The Book of Eli' is definitely worth seeing, it just ends up being a good film as apposed to a great one.

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