The Book of Eli (2010)
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Albert Hughes, Allen Hughes
Denzel Washington, Gary Oldman, Mila Kunis, Ray Stevenson, Jennifer Beals, Evan Jones, Joe Pingue, Frances de la Tour, Michael Gambon, Tom Waits
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Favorite Movie Quote: "In all these years I've been carrying it and reading it every day, I got so caught up in keeping it safe that I forgot to live by what I learned from it."
Where to start?
Like most post-apocalyptic tales, The Book of Eli takes place some indeterminate amount of time in the future, 31 years after "The War". A man referred to throughout the majority of the film as simply "The Walker" (Denzel Washington) heads, just as simply, west with his book that we very quickly see is a Bible. He's got this survival thing down to a science; eating cat (the other white meat), scavenging the dead, avoiding unecessary risks - including people - whenever possible, and going vegamatic on those who accost him.
In an effort to get a battery recharged The Walker enters what passes for a town, ends up in a bar, is accosted by an idiot, and kills a bunch of people drawing him to the attention of the Boss, Carnegie (Gary Oldman). Carnegie's looking for a book too, some special kind of book he won't describe, so unless you're blind, you can add up which book that is. After young Solara (Mila Kunis) learns a prayer from the Walker, she subsequently shares it with her mother (Jennifer Beals) in front of Carnegie, and the pugilism for the portfolio is on like Donkey Kong.
If what you think this movie is or should be is Road Warrior, you'll probably be thoroughly disappointed; The Book of Eli is far superior, with a more salient point. The only reason I don't rate it as a perfect movie is because it isn't perfect; there are an assortment of technical gripes I could make that Eli shares with every post-apocalyptic film I've ever seen. However, The Book of Eli creates such an emotionally provocative yarn that I just don't care; it's a moving think-piece about what religion has done and can do, bringing us together and tearing us apart based on our use (or misuse) of it, how defending The Word, even when well-intended, is to miss the very message of the thing you're trying to defend (kind of like outlawing flag-burning).
These points are explored in an assortment of scenes and characters. Carnegie runs the one town, but he understands that expansion requires more than guns: an idea. In Carnegie you have just about every sh*tbird religious leader or politician that feigns piety only to get caught taking bribes, lying under oath, fondling genitals others than those to which they are beholden, or worse. In The Walker (Eli) you have the well-intentioned crusader who cannot see the forest for the trees - at first - until he comes to care for Solara (the light) and sees that protecting a message to which one does not adhere is a bit of madness.
As an atheist, I believe that religion has been entirely synthesized by men largely so one group could control another. Mind you, I also believe there was a time and place for this - a necessity - as civilization would've made like an iced kite without religion.
In one of the most beautiful scenes, Eli offers to share a meal with Solara; she goes for the food like a fat kid attacking a bag of doughnuts. He stops her, asks her to sit, holds out his hands, she hesitates, "put your hands in mine. Close your eyes. Trust me." They pray together, they eat.
Solara has breakfast with her mother the following morning and repeats the ritual. Now, Solara knows nothing of God or the Debil at this point, the prayer wasn't mindless supplication to some invisible man in the sky, it was taking a moment to say, "I'm greatful for this food which enables me to survive, and I'm greatful to share it with you, because you matter to me and I to you." It's actually kind of intimate, almost akin to sex, and here's a use of a religious practice - whether an atheist or a true believer - that brings people together; the basic core of civilization. I teared up.
I was also so happy to see Eli grow in the film. Doing unto others who intend to do unto you in the ass is one thing, but leaving defenseless people to fend for themselves to stay on the mission was going to leave a bit o' sand in my crack when the credits rolled. Plus the metaphor is quite clear if you're a true believer in God - it is not the Bible that matters but the message, and He is always with you no matter what.
Anyways, one cannot stare too long at the sun, so this review has got to end. Hope you learned something; I know I did.
Don't put machetes on the dash board.
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