The Book of Eli (2010, dir. The Hughes Brothers)
Starring Denzel Washington, Gary Oldman, Mila Kunis, Jennifer Beals, Malcolm McDowell
The post-apocalyptic world has been the setting for many films, the most obvious that comes to people’s minds would be the Mad Max trilogy. In the last few years we’ve seen I Am Legend, Terminator: Salvation, and The Road. So how does this latest entry into the sub-genre stack up? Not exactly a masterpiece, but not without its merits either.
The story follows the enegmatic Eli (Washington), a traveler across the devastated landscape who lives by a stoic system of conduct. He has the reflexes of superhero and a stony resolve. There isn’t much depth given to the character, and he is definitely in the category of Clint Eastwood’s The Man With No Name. We have no back story ever given for Eli and in fact it probably doesn’t matter too much anyway. There are some interesting twists that provide a different context for the film if you were to go back and rewatch it, however, the film never provides any real reason to want to.
The post-apocalyptic world the Hughes Brothers have designed feels incredibly bland. They add some new details: a world so sun bleached everyone must wear sunglasses when going outside. But other than a few details here and there, there is nothing that sets this world apart from richer futurist visions. The one thing that elevates the picture is the acting, particularly of Washington and Oldman. These two actors are much better than the material they are working with and its only due to their acting prowess that they make it enjoyable.
In the end, its a case of great concepts but poor delivery, very much like last year’s Pandorum. The film feels way too rushed (it’s about an hour and half), and the action doesn’t really kick in until an hour in. This imbalance of the plot can definitely be felt and ends up showcasing some of the sloppiness in the screenplay. It’s a film with a look once its on DVD or you come across it on HBO, but definitely not one to rush out to the theaters and see.