The Book of Eli

22 Jan

A post-apocalyptic action journey that almost has a message, The Book of Eli just doesn’t quite deliver to the Denzel Washington standard. It’s not that Denzel is expected to make oscar-winners, but his film’s generally range from quality entertainment to oscar quality, the Book of Eli is more of  the I’ll catch it on TNT quality.

 The Book of Eli suffers from slow pacing and an overdeveloped sense of self importance that it never lives up to, possibly the result of the Hughes brothers seven year hiatus from making films.  But the true disappointment is that you leave the theater with the nagging feeling like there actually could have been a good movie in their somewhere.  

It opens with laboriously slow panning shots of Denzel (Eli), trying to look awesome, set against the vast barn post-apocalyptic west coast of the United States.  With an old school western feel to it Denzel wanders into a small desolate town of pirates and is forced to confront the head outlaw, Carnegie (Gary Oldman) who desires what Denzel posses, a book of unimaginable power…the bible.  Oh no, this movie just got real…or not.

The world of total chaos- roaming bands of cannibals, raping and pillaging never really is established as a credible backdrop to potentially serious themes of the film.  As Denzel wanders on the orders of a theistic voice, bringing the bible west, the Mad Max backdrop does little to advance the character of Eli, beyond his apparent badass lethal fighting skills. But the wide scoping shots seem to indicate the world should play a more pivotal role in this hypothetically serious examination of the controlling power of religion versus the empowerment of faith.

Trapped in between Carnegie and Denzel’s showdown over the book are Carnegie’s mistress Claudia (Jennifer Beals) and her daughter Solara (Mila Kunis). Solara is an unfortunate role for Kunis who may have betrayed her narrow range as the hard-nosed female sidekick to Denzel. The audience burst out laughing during much of her dialogue. Either she needs more time for people to forget that 70’s show or maybe Kunis should stick to her wheel house, comedies.

The ensuring almost-drama plays out very much like the comic book the movie seems to be, although with a very enjoyable twist ending that makes the lead-up up all the more frustrating. Clearly, this was a movie meant to be carried by the star power of Denzel, which the box office will most likely validate on a certain level. But this satisfaction can’t overcome the critical lambasting the film is sure to get.

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