The Book Of Eli Review: The Good Book Makes Bad Film

January 15, 2010 by  
Filed under - Home, Film Reviews

eli300THE BOOK OF ELI: On General Release 15th January

Is there ever a film in which the future goes well?

If movies are to be believed the world will either be a dystopian nightmare where machines control our every thoughts or a burnt-out wasteland the colour of mud.

The Book of Eli
takes place in the latter and sees Eli (Denzel Washington) trekking across a harsh wilderness populated by violent cannibalistic biker gangs and endless amounts of dust. His treasure is a book he keeps with him at all times – a King James Bible which he won’t let out of his sight.

Despite being just one man, he’s unaccountably good at taking care of himself – his martial arts prowess and skill with all manner of weaponry make him a force to be reckoned with.

Eventually he walks into a town run by the sinister Carnegie (Gary Oldman – nice to see him back as a bad guy), who’s been desperately seeking a bible to use as a weapon. Trying unsuccessfully to get Eli to stay, he sends his lover’s daughter Solara (Mila Kunis) to try to tempt it from him, only for her to follow him on the road.

Will Carnegie be able to get the book from Eli and where is Eli going anyway?

It’s not as action oriented as you might have been led to believe. This actually works in its favour making the violence stand out as even more brutal.

It’s not only thin on action; it’s thin on plot too. Eli suggests that the catastrophe which befell the world was because the world didn’t pay attention to the book’s teachings. Anyone that thinks you get morality from a book is simply wrong but the film uses this premise to ram its hypocritical point of view down your throat.

What happened to Thou shalt not kill? Eli seems to forget that as he kills about thirty people in under a minute.

It’s also accompanied by so many plot holes and unexplained phenomena that it’s impossible to give it the benefit of the doubt.

At one point Solara offers to sacrifice herself for the book; she’s willing to trade her life for a book she can’t read and that a man she’s just met has told her is important. It could be The Da Vinci Code for all she knows.

Who taught Eli to fight and why do bullets glance off him? It’s never explained and this becomes even more ridiculous when you find out the film’s conclusion.

There are some nice cameos from Frances de la Tour, Michael Gambon and Malcolm McDowell but even their appearances can’t save a film whose agenda is on its sleeve, whose plot doesn’t make any sense and whose sanctimonious message leaves a bad taste in the mouth.

Here’s a new commandment for you: Thou shalt not make preachy wildly improbably bullsh*t.

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  1. drew says:

    I haven’t seen this movie yet, but I still want to. And about the “Thou Shall Not Kill” thing, There are plenty of instances in the Bible which followers of God kill people. Look at king David, he was a man of war and killed people. So the whole thing about Eli killing people to protect the book seems logical to me. If killing is necessary then I don’t think it is wrong. Just like if I was about to get shot but I had a gun, I would shoot the person first.

  2. melanie says:

    It’s interesting to me that hollywood MUST be tolerant of ALL religions and views… except Christianity.

  3. Ceycll Reltsma says:

    Interesting fuss, this film is causing. If truly faithful, why defend or fear a challenge to that faith. If a complete non-believer, maybe this was just never going to work for that particular audience. Not sure. But it certainly has horrible plot holes, thematic disasters and a lot of facade for a very two-dimensional flick. I agree with this review in that regard. For less-than-tolerant views of religions other than Christianity, I offer you virtually the the body whole of Woody Allen’s work, The Coen Brothers’ “A Serious Man” comes to mind, and while not entirely “Hollywood” what about Philip Roth? Not to mention that the real world does a great job of tolerating Christianity over pretty much anything else: religious or not, especially in the US, where religion-as-politics cum policy rules the day. Hollywood is not hurting the widespread fundamentalism that sweeps the globe.