Director: Allen Hughes, Albert Hughes
Cast: Denzel Washington, Gary Oldman, Mila
Kunis, Ray Stevenson, Jennifer Beals, Michael Gambon, Evan
RunTime: 1 hr 55 mins
Released By: Columbia TriStar
Rating: NC-16 (Violence & Some Coarse
Official Website: http://thebookofeli.warnerbros.com/
Opening Day: 18 March 2010
In "The Book of Eli," Denzel Washington stars as a lone warrior
named Eli, who fights his way across the desolate wasteland
of near-future America to realize his destiny and deliver
the knowledge that can bring civilization back from the brink
of destruction and save the future of humanity.
"I have fought the fight. I have finished my course.
I have kept the faith" –
2 Timothy 4:7
In the scheme of Hollywood’s obsession with post-apocalyptic
fiction, Denzel Washington’s "The Book of Eli"
isn’t simply just another end-of-the-world tale. On
the surface, its premise of a lone warrior wandering a desolate
landscape appears to ring smack of other such genre pics like
"Mad Max" or "I Am Legend"; but it really
is surprisingly much more complex.
Here is a rare Hollywood mainstream film that injects a generous
dose of Christianity into its storytelling, featuring as its
titular hero a faithful Christian named Eli. Gary Whitta’s
screenplay tries to blend the genre archetypes of Hollywood’s
best post-apocalyptic tales with a distinct but thankfully
never heavy-handed reflection of the end of days from a Christian
perspective- beginning with said tome which Eli is guarding.
Denzel Washington’s Eli is on a journey to deliver the
book out West, across a stark wilderness devastated by some
catastrophic event some 30 years ago. What happened before
is never quite clear- though admittedly it is not the focus
of the movie. Neither do we know his destination, nor for
that matter does Eli, even as he reiterates to himself, 'Stay
on the path. This is not your concern'.
Eli is single-minded in his sense of mission, struggling to
walk away when he sees fellow travellers on the road attacked
by gangs of marauders. Such is the state of civilisation amidst
wastelands of abandoned cars, crumbling buildings and bombed
highways- so in order to survive, Eli wields a sword which
he brandishes expertly against anyone who stands in his way.
That villain turns out to be Carnegie (Gary Oldman) who has
been on the search for a book to rally people under his control,
a weapon, he describes, to bend people’s wills to his
What kind of book would have such a power? The answer isn’t
that elusive- indeed, discerning readers would probably already
guessed that Eli’s book really is the Holy Bible (the
King James version of it, no less), the very last one that
is left. Depending on your personal religious convictions,
you may agree wholeheartedly or dismiss this as hokum. Nevertheless,
"The Book of Eli’s" point is this- in order
to rebuild civilisation, we may very well need the power of
Appreciated in that light, Eli’s calling (and yes, we
mean that literally) doesn’t seem all that farfetched.
He believes in his heart in the power of the Word and that
he is guided on his quest by the invisible hand of God. "How
do you know you're walking the right way?" he's asked.
"I walk by faith, and not by sight," he answers,
and Eli’s conviction in his belief will likely go down
just fine with the converted.
The non-converted however may find the symbolism a little
hard to swallow, especially towards the second half of the
movie when Eli’s purpose becomes clearer. Despite the
inevitable scepticism, it is ultimately Denzel Washington’s
charismatic performance that will win you over. With his trademark
lope/trudge, Denzel embodies the spirit of this laconic, solitary
wanderer beautifully, portraying with grace and dignity a
person steadfast in his beliefs and resolute in his actions.
Gary Oldman’s Carnegie too is a man firm in his beliefs
and determined in his actions- though of course his motivations
are entirely different, and misguided. Such is the thin line
in the good and evil polemic, and Oldman’s nuanced performance
gives his character added gravitas. Through Carnegie’s
town, Eli meets the people whose lives he will touch on his
mission- a blind mother (Flashdance’s Jennifer Beals
in a welcome return to the big screen) and her daughter (Mila
Kunis) who through Eli’s exemplar will find her calling.
It is within a world torn apart by chaos that Eli’s
mission becomes significant, a sepia-toned world that is richly
imagined by co-directors Albert and Allen Hughes (who bill
themselves the Hughes Bros.) in its bleakness and hopelessness.
Through our omnipresent search for meaning in life, "The
Book of Eli" invites its audience to believe in one’s
man discovery of the meaning of his life. Like all other post
apocalyptic movies, this one has its fair share of thrilling
action sequences, but it is this deeper search for meaning
and purpose that makes it stand out from the rest.
(This is a bold piece of post-apocalyptic fiction
that finds its own unique voice through Christian theology)
Review by Gabriel Chong