The Book of Eli

Hollywood has done it again. Why make a Halo movie? Avatar and District 9 came, saw, conquered. Fallout 3? Forget it, The Book of Eli got there first. From the first shot to the last, this is what the world of Fallout 3 would look like in movie form and do you know what? I like it.

The world is a wreck. You can tell from the de-saturated look. It is stark and barren. The people are badly-dressed in rags, biker-gear and all sport goggles. Culture and civilisation have disappeared. People are turning into cannibals. Along comes Denzel Washington’s Eli, travelling from the east to the west with a book, battling degenerates. Gary Oldman’s small-town tyrant, Carnegie, wants that book. The two are going to clash. This is a dog eat dog world. Or rat eat cat world.

Denzel Washington and Gary Oldman in The Book of Eli
Denzel Washington and Gary Oldman

Yes, its visual style reminds one of Sin City and countless graphic novels. The film might echo so many other post-apocalyptic tales told before but it is the way that the world is constructed that grabs you. The vision that the Hughes Brothers have created is continual and seeps out of the screen from the barren landscape to the conversations and actions of the people who inhabit it. There are countless displays of how the world has changed from seeing the disposable items we take for granted form new money to seeing KFC wet-wipes used in place of a hot-bath. Dialogue, ideas and scenes broil with the aftermath of the disaster that has happened. The end of modern culture and the relics from the past are a constant stream of things that reinforce the movie and also raised laughter from the audience I was with.

Talking of relics from the past, both Eli and Carnegie are from before the disaster and the play between them and others is great. Denzel is Denzel with the worlds last surviving I-Pod, his confidence powers the film along its journey while Gary Oldman slips into driven nutcase mode familiar from The Fifth Element. They spark off each other well. Denzel is like a post-apocalyptic Assassins Creed II Ezio, whirling his blades around in the frenetic combat, it makes combat in Fallout 3 look positively anaemic. The rest of the cast is strong but there are a number of other cameos that are really great, cementing the Sci-Fi credentials. This is like Fist of the North Star, only interesting.

As a final note, a lot of modern movies are inspired by comics and videogames. A lot of (damn near all) videogames are inspired by movies. There are diminishing returns on both sides. None of them really say anything, which is why The Book of Eli was a pleasant surprise. This film is slightly different. Yes there are many action scenes but it is a film about the power of culture and words. Words have the power that Oldman seeks from the book. He has men and weapons but his ultimate weapon is the book. He goes to ludicrous lengths to get it and it is this desire that marks out this film from a lot of the blockbuster movies and games that have come before. There is something far greater being hinted at instead of just being a shooting gallery or obstacle course. What is being hinted at is that people need people and that culture redeems people.

Directed by: The Hughes Brothers

Eli: Denzel Washington

Carnegie: Gary Oldman

Solara: Mila Kunis

Studio: Alcon Entertainment /Silver Screen Picture/ Warner Brothers

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