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The Book of Eli

A 2010 American film starring Denzel Washington and Gary Oldman.

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Where Are You Going? Don't You Want to Know How it Ends?

  • Jan 15, 2010
One does not usually begin a movie review by talking about the ending, but in the case of "The Book of Eli," there's really no other way to go about it. Something, and I'm trying to be careful here, is revealed, something that's implausible but also undeniably clever. After the revelation, we discover what has been driving the main character to do what he does, and that's when it all come crashing down - this movie goes a long way for very little. How could the Hughes Brothers have let their film be so grossly undermined, especially after giving the audience a thoroughly absorbing buildup? I'm so disappointed. This movie could have been something. Up until the end, it really was something.

The story takes place in a post apocalyptic world of barren landscapes, effectively made to look harsh through a combination of overly bright lighting and muted color schemes. Broken highways trail across vast deserts. Cities lie in ruin. Ancient-looking cars litter the scenery, and some still contain the remains of their drivers. Drought reigns supreme. Everything is scarce, including food. The remaining population consists almost entirely of thieves, and some have even resorted to cannibalism. The reason for all this is left a little obscure; the characters keep referring to a cataclysmic event known as The Flash, which I interpret as being either a meteor or a solar flare. It also could have been manmade - a nuclear bomb, or something.

Wandering across this wasteland is Eli (Denzel Washington), a loner on a mission. He has the fighting skills of an assassin, able to take on groups of people singlehandedly and emerge victorious, even when chainsaws and machineguns are involved. He seems astutely aware of his surroundings, and his sense of hearing is unbelievably strong. He has lightning-quick reflexes, as if somehow seeing everything before it actually happens. But he never makes it his business to fight; he's just trying to head west. He has been for the last thirty years, ever since The Flash took place. What exactly is waiting for him there? He's remains mum on the subject. I can't help but love it when the Mysterious Stranger lives up to his name.

He makes a pit stop in a ramshackle town run by Carnegie (Gary Oldman), a wholly deplorable man who sends his flunkies out in search of a very specific book. No power on earth will make me reveal exactly what book it is. I will say that Eli just happens to be in possession of such a book and that, because of a social uprising soon after The Flash, it's the last of its kind. As a result, a select few know of its existence. Eli wants the book because he believes it will be the key to humanity's redemption. Carnegie wants the book because he can use it as a weapon. When all is explained at the end, we realize with great disillusionment that Carnegie's motives make a reasonable argument for why this book should have remained forgotten.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Eli bonds with Solara (Mila Kunis), daughter of Claudia (Jennifer Beals), Carnegie's blind concubine. Not much is known about Solara; the most we get is that, like many who were born after The Flash, she never learned how to read. But it's not really about getting to know her, anyway; it's about her relationship with Eli, the way she questions him about life before The Flash, why he's so intent on heading west, and whether or not he can teach her how to read. Eli is alarmingly unresponsive on the subject of reading, and we don't understand why until the end.

And that brings me back to where I started. A mystery is only as good as its solution; if what leads up to the ending is better than the actual ending, you've failed at telling a successful story. The big revelation at the end of "The Book of Eli" is immensely unsatisfying, not only because it sends a message that contradicts certain events of the story, but also because it lacks the inventiveness and scope of the film's opening and middle sections. It was a bait and switch. I felt cheated.

All the same, there are many recommendable things about this movie. The buildup is carefully structured and wonderfully paced. The visuals are stunning. The dialogue is decent. The performances are good, especially Oldman's. It's just the ending that's bad. This is a strange situation. I'm urging you to avoid "The Book of Eli," but because my review has been so vague, seeing it may be the only way for you to understand where I'm coming from. I really wanted to like this film. Up until the final five minutes, I did like it very much. So maybe it would be worth your while to go and then leave before everything is revealed. In this case, that would not be a waste of money. Trust me on this one.

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September 22, 2010
Chris (if I may call you that), I've always enjoyed your reviews, and the one above is well-written as always. I'm just confused about the +3 rating. If I had read your review and then been asked to guess at your rating, I would have thought +1, perhaps +2 at a stretch. You do praise a few things, but only in a cursory manner in your final paragraph. Your criticism carries so much more weight than your praise. That being said, the content is always more interesting than the "number of stars." And your content is always exemplary.
September 22, 2010
I liked this movie quite a bit more than you did. Excellent review though. :)
More The Book of Eli reviews
review by . January 16, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
3 ½ + Stars:
At first impression from its trailer, the Hughes Brothers’ (From Hell) post-apocalyptic action drama “The Book of Eli” appears to be a film that borrows heavily from other movies such as “Water World” and “Mad Max”. Such movies have their plots revolving around survival and/or the search for a natural resource. This film does have the post apocalyptic theme going for it, but the ’resource’ that humankind is searching for isn’t oil, water …
review by . November 10, 2010
The Book of Eli was a highly anticipated film for me and although some of my friends had their issues I loved it. This isn't a perfect movie but it was a damn good one. Anywho, here goes the synopsis, In 2042, thirty years after an apocalyptic event, Eli (Denzel Washington) travels on foot toward the west coast of the United States. He keeps very little on him, somehow he has a working ipod, sunglasses, and a heavy arsenal that makes him one the deadliest men still alive.      …
review by . December 09, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
**1/2 out of ****      Out of all those apocalyptic action films of the new generation, "The Book of Eli" is one of the better, yet imperfect ones. I can't guarantee that many will be able to forgive its visual bleakness and pretentious story-telling, but there's something about this film that makes it fun. Sure, it's a flawed apocalyptic tale without depth and devoid of power. But it's also fun, especially when there are action sequences. These little …
review by . May 28, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
Don't let the first 30 minutes or so of The Book of Eli fool you - it comes off as a bleak and moody mix of other post-apocalyptic stories like Mad Max and The Road, but by the time the credits roll you'll see the heart that beats beneath this cracked skin.      There's a lot of story to uncover in The Book of Eli, more than I initially expected, and the themes and ideas expressed here surprised me. In a very good way.      Denzel Washington pulls …
review by . January 18, 2010
Kicking Butt After the Age of 50
A quick visit to Wikipedia and I discover that Mr. Gary Oldman is starting to live up to his namesake. No offense, of course, to those over the nice round age of 50. In fact, take it as a compliment. It means that at the age of 51 you can still intimidate the heck out of us younger-folk. That is, if you are anything like Gary Oldman. Even past his 50s he remains one of the most unnerving personas to hit the screen. And boy does he rattle the nerves in The Book of Eli.      Another …
review by . January 26, 2011
Pros: Washington & Oldman     Cons: none for me     The Bottom Line:   "Not At This Time In My Life  How Can I Hear Your Call In This Windy Night"  ~Houston Calls       It has been a while since the Hughes brothers, Albert & Allen, have offered us a project, but joining with writer Gary Whitta, they have given us The Book of Eli.  It is rated R for language and violence and has been nominated, …
review by . January 30, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
All of a sudden I was blinded by a flash, devil of a man with a gun
Years ago, the educated in the church were the only ones who could read scripture and keep themselves in power and the world stupid.  The ones in power who are lacking benevolance are in danger of ignoring Santiago's most famous maxim, the one about those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it.  So sets into motion The Book Of Eli, a fantastic post apocolyptic western movie where a lone traveller heads west on a quest of faith with an important piece of cargo to take home.   …
review by . February 27, 2011
posted in SF Signal
      Real short:  watch it if you get a chance. Slightly longer: The Story of the Christ meets Mad Max The Road Warrior. And just a bit longer: Fans of post apocalyptic scenery will love the devastation. Fans who have been clamoring for post apocalyptic tales with more of a Christian message will enjoy the message. Fight scenes - pretty darned good.  Acting - pretty darned good.  Cinematography and musical score - pretty darned good (I'm a pushover …
Quick Tip by . December 09, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Good grief, this was dull. I enjoy a well-done post-apocalyptic film and that sub-genre has a long and interesting history. However, this film adds nothing to it and its insufferable and hypocritical message was annoying as could be. The strange twist near the end also made the film completely unbelievable as well as meandering. The only positive things I can say about it is that the camera work is quite good and Denzel Washington delivers an okay performance.
review by . September 28, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
One of Denzels coolest flicks yet.
Just when you thought you've seen it all (post-apocalyptic movies) comes The Book of Eli. This movie takes place a few years after a war destroys most of America. The main Character Eli is in the possession of what seems to be the last bible on earth. There is something about this movie, it just pulls you in and your instantly hooked. Denzels acting was phenominal and after all these years he's still got it. The story seemed odd but it was enough to keep you intrested. I loved the twist …
About the reviewer
Chris Pandolfi ()
Ranked #5
Growing up a shy kid in a quiet suburb of Los Angeles, Chris Pandolfi knows all about the imagination. Pretend games were always the most fun for him, especially on the school playground; he and his … more
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About this movie


The Book of Eli is a 2010 American film starring Denzel Washington and Gary Oldman.  It was directed by Albert and Allen Hughes and written by Gary Whitta.  The film was released on January 15th 2010.

Based in post-apocalyptic 2043, The Book of Eli follows the life of one man (Washington) who in his posses ion holds the last bible on Earth.

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Genre: Action, Adventure
Release Date: January 15, 2010
MPAA Rating: R
Screen Writer: Gary Whitta
Runtime: 118 minutes
Studio: Alcon Entertainment, Silver Pictures, Warner Bros Pictures, Columbia Pictures
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