tek's rating: ¼

The Book of Eli (R)
Alcon Entertainment; IMDb; Rotten Tomatoes; TV Tropes; Warner Bros.; Wikia; Wikipedia
streaming sites: Amazon; Google Play; iTunes; Movies Anywhere; Vudu; YouTube

This came out in 2010, but I didn't see it until 2016. (I got it in a 2-disc set with I Am Legend.) It's set in a post-apocalyptic America, 30 years after a war that turned the country into a wasteland. (I don't know about the rest of the world, but I can't imagine it fared much better.) And the first thing I noticed about the movie is how faded the colors are, which I thought was a nice touch. Eventually, the film establishes a sort of western vibe (as in the genre). But it's also definitely a very badass movie, mainly because of the protagonist, Eli (Denzel Washington). Dude has got skills.

Anyway, I'm not quite sure how much of the plot I want to reveal, because I feel like saying much of anything about it would be kind of spoilery. But... Eli has been walking westward for a long time, with a single purpose in mind. He has a book, which he intends to deliver some place. He'll know the place when he finds it, I guess. And after awhile, he arrives in a town run by a kingpin named Carnegie (Gary Oldman). This is definitely not the place Eli has been searching for. Meanwhile, Carnegie has a bunch of bandits and henchmen working for him, the main one being a guy named Redridge. It seems that Carnegie frequently sends his bandits out looking for a particular book, but so far they haven't found the one he wants. But now... Eli ends up getting into a bar fight, which brings him to Carnegie's attention. He's interested in Eli both because of his fighting skills and the fact that he can read (which is rare, these days). He offers him a job, and when Eli declines, Carnegie insists he spend the night in town and experience his "hospitality." That includes sending a young woman named Solara (Mila Kunis) to his room for... companionship. Solara is the daughter of a blind woman named Claudia (Jennifer Beals), who I guess is Carnegie's mistress, or something. Anyway, Eli tries to send Solara away without doing what she was sent to do, but she begs him to let her stay, lest Carnegie should hurt her mother for Solara's failure. So, Eli lets her stay the night. He shares his food, and a prayer (which is something she's never heard before).

In the morning, Eli leaves (though how he got out of his room and past the guard is unclear). But Carnegie forces Solara to tell her about a book Eli was carrying with him. I must say, long before the nature of the book was explicitly revealed, I thought it was obvious that it was a Bible. Which is, of course, the very book Carnegie has been so desperate to find. (All the Bibles were destroyed, after the war.) He has plans to expand his power beyond one small town, and he considers a Bible the perfect weapon to use to control people. Most people in the world these days don't seem to know much about the world before the war, and certainly don't have any concept of religion. But I found Carnegie's plan rather interesting... I'm not sure how feasible it would really be starting from scratch to rebuild a religion, but still, as he says... it worked before. (This plot point actually reminds me a bit of one segment of Foundation, but I'm sure it could be compared to countless other works. As well as, you know, actual history.) Anyway, Carnegie and his men find Eli before he leaves town, and try to stop him. But they fail. And Solara follows him, though he's reluctant to let her join him, at first. Later, Carnegie and his men go out searching for them.

And I really don't want to say much more. I will say I found a lot of things predictable, and other things... maybe less predictable. Anyway, I enjoyed the movie on at least a couple of levels, for the action and the... let's say philosophy. I'm sort of not sure how I should feel about the book being delivered to anyone, regardless of their intentions. Religion... I think it's been responsible for a lot of good and a lot of evil throughout history. That's true of most major religions, certainly including Christianity. I get the sense that Eli is the "good kind" of Christian and Carnegie is the "bad kind," and it's an interesting dichotomy, in fact it's something that can be debated about any tool, including religion, or knowledge in general. Carnegie's right to believe it can be used as a weapon, and Eli's right to believe it can be a great comfort to people who desperately need it. I just worry that even if it starts out in the best of hands, with the best of intentions, it could become dangerous no matter how careful anyone is with it. (Or, you know, people could just see it as some kind of quaint curiosity, a relic of the old world with no real meaning in the new world.) But I guess the answer to that question isn't really important to the movie. I did like the ending well enough, and whatever happens next... doesn't matter, because the movie's over.


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