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The Book of Eli

A 2010 American film starring Denzel Washington and Gary Oldman.

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Denzel Washington more or less redeems this very unoriginal film

  • Jan 18, 2010
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The world following the apocalypse has become a nearly barren desert, populated by loosely knit groups of humans who cling to survival with dirty talons, and make little effort to cling to civilization. Many drive modified motorcycles. Into this desolation wanders a lonely figure, reluctantly on a journey that urges him to disassociate from humanity in favor of headlong movement across the landscape. He is also a ferocious fighter when he needs to be, and under the hard exterior is capable of feeling a need for companionship and meaning.

Nope, I'm not describing THE ROAD WARRIOR. I'm not talking about THE ROAD. I'm talking about the very unoriginal THE BOOK OF ELI, starring Denzel Washington as the mysterious man Eli who is compelled to walk ever Westward across a landscape wrecked by nuclear war...where there are few survivors and many of them have turned to cannibalism. He carries a book with him that is unique in what is left of mankind, and he believes that he must deliver this into the right hands.

On his path, he is frequently beset by violence...but fortunately, he has almost superhuman hand-to-hand fighting skills (and a very sharp sword), so that he can easily defeat 6 or more hardened, experienced fighting men in about 20 seconds flat.

He wanders into a town, where the self-appointed mayor (Gary Oldman) happens to be looking for the very book that Eli happens to be carrying. Eli escapes, but is accompanied (much to his chagrin) by a spunk young lady (Mila Kunis) who is drawn to Washington's gentleness and probably by a chance to "see the world." The two must fight off efforts to bring them back to this town, save the book and deliver it to the location Eli feels God has told him to bring it.

ELI is filmed in a washed out, sepia-toned manner, and is virtually devoid of any other color. There are lots of shots of Eli moving across the barren land, and plenty of moments where he just stands in place and looks cool. Denzel Washington has charisma to burn, and it is this charisma that makes the film watchable. We immediately take to this quiet, mysterious man...because we immediately are drawn to Washington. Washington talks very little, and except for two or three short bursts of action...seems to DO very little. Yet he's fairly riveting, and that's due simply to his presence. He doesn't so much give a performance as he gives a persona.

Were a lesser actor than Washington in this film, it would just be a slow-moving, sepia colored, B-level post-apocalyptic chore of a movie. There's very little that's honestly original, and surprisingly little actual action. I expected more fighting, but got very little when it was all said and done. Gary Oldman, who has been such a great villain over the years, really never makes much of a foreboding presence. We get that he's a bit crazy and a lot dangerous, but it feels vague and unspecific. Surprisingly, Jennifer Beals makes a nice impression as Oldman's "girlfriend" and Mila Kunis' mother. Kunis is working up an interesting film resume, having been credible now in things as diverse as ELI & FORGETTING SARAH MARSHALL. I'm not ready to put her on the A-list yet, but I also never thought the kid who played Jackie on THAT `70s SHOW would have a viable film career. She's actually pretty good, and towards the end of the film, has some nice moments with Washington which finally give the film a long overdue shot of human emotion.

In the end, your enjoyment of this movie will depend a lot on how much you like either a) Washington or b) post-apocalyptic films, no matter how derivative of far better films. While I didn't mind the time I spent watching THE BOOK OF ELI...my time would have been better spent re-watching THE ROAD WARRIOR...the film that after all these years is STILL the gold-standard in this little subgenre.

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September 22, 2010
Nice review and a good opposing viewpoint (yet well-expressed) about the film. Very nice job!
September 22, 2010
Thanks for the nice words. I'd like to see your review of the film someday. At other venues, I've seen this film generate wildy varying views...including some amusing but slightly frightening accusations that the film is just a Christian scheme to get us to read the Bible.
September 23, 2010
Ha-hah. Yes, this was quite the film that provoked some discussion. btw, I tried to feature your review in Movie Hype but it seems like it isn't in the community. Oh, I did review this when it first came out, I liked it, gave it a weak 4 but a strong 3.5 out of 5, I liked the portrayal of Biblical warriors in a post-apocalyptic backdrop and I did like the acting. Thanks again!
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

Ranked #146
I've got my own site, www.afilmcritic.com, on which I'm posting my reviews. I am 46 years old, married 25 years, two kids (23 & 18) and currently work in accounting/finance. I spent 15 years … 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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