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Sunday, February 7, 2010

The Book of Eli - A Review

Wow! What a surprise!

Normally, Denzel Washington could read a phone book and I would be enthralled with his performance,

In "The Book of Eli," I found myself initially disappointed, thinking this was some type of post-Apocalyptic flapdoodle, a sequel to "Road Warrior." The slow start of an unusually dark and somber movie and a Denzel Washington I didn't recognize all came together to make me wonder if I was going to enjoy this movie.

I'm still not sure I did.

I'm glad I stayed for the full movie (I had seriously considered going to one of the other movies within the Multiplex at one point) because there are several very surprising endings to the film, which may have made the whole exercise worthwhile.

By any definition it is an action drama with simple themes. Good guy versus bad guy(s) and 'ya just gotta have faith!'

Eli is a man, a lone wanderer who wears a name tag saying "Hi! My name is Eli." Eli is making his way through a wilderness of catastrophic destruction and human cruelty like a latter-day prophet.

He is highly proficient with with knives, pistols, rifles, shotguns and karate. Though, later in the film, one has to wonder . . . "How?"

After a catastrophe has wiped out most of the Earth's population and left ruin and desolation behind, the remaining humans are victimized by roaming motorcycle gangs of hijackers and thieves.

After quickly dispatching a number of said evil ambushers, sending them all to The Great Perhaps rather rapidly, he enters a Western town ruled by Carnegie, who is a typical old Western movie bad, bad, power broker.

He lives in what passes for splendor, waited upon hand and foot by his henchmen and other minions. The people, meanwhile, desperate and starving, live in rusty cars and in the streets. The film is shot in such a manner that a dry and dusty world, with very little available water, is depicted. You get the picture right quickly that water is more valuable than gold. And that, it turns out, is partially how Evil Carnegie manages to maintain his hold on the people. Water! Cool, Clear, Water. (Cue the "Sons of the Pioneers.")

While there is no traditional love interest, they do offer us several moderately attractive women . . . Claudia, the abused wife of the Chief Bad Guy, Carnegie, and Solara, the daughter forced into prostitution by Evil Carnegie.

The theme of the movie is finally revealed when it is determined that Mean ol' Carnegie (the ruthless bad guy) just has to have The Book that Eli carries around in his back pack.

What follows is some traditional shoot 'em up scenes (there are lots of scenes of violence for you bloodthirsty types). You will find, as I did, that there is a lot of continual comic book simplicity to the movie. It's just filmed in a rather stark and somber manner, while comics were always rather colorful.

At times, one wonders if Eli is an avenging angel, come back to earth to set matters right. You are kept wondering that right up to the end.

The ending itself has not one but several major surprises. In fact, it kinda separates itself from the movie and almost takes on a life of its own. You are left wondering at the end.

The Book of Eli is NOT predictable. Nor is it a particularly cerebral film. It runs 1 hour 58 minutes.

If you have seen the film and if you are a caring, considerate person, you won't discuss the ending. If you haven't seen it . . . you're in for a big surprise. A couple of them.

WITH: Denzel Washington (Eli), Gary Oldman (Carnegie) [Boo! Hiss!], Mila Kunis (Solara), Ray Stevenson (Redridge), Jennifer Beals (Claudia).

Overall . . . I was a bit disappointed. I expected more of Denzel Washington. Given the choice, knowing what I know now, I would have gone to see another movie. You may enjoy it. I didn't. particularly.

I do not see it winning an Oscar. I doubt it will even be nominated.

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