REVIEW: The Book of Eli

10 08 2010

If you stick with “The Book of Eli” all the way to the end, you’ll notice that the movie had two directors, The Hughes Brothers. My theory now is that the two brothers decided to split up the movie, one taking the first hour and the other taking the second. It’s the only way I can explain its complete bipolarity. Whichever brother directed the second half should disown his brother and then make movies on his own because he is capable of making an exciting, captivating ride.

On the other hand, his brother undermines its effectiveness makes a laughably dreary bomb.  It’s almost made with the cocky assumption that we’ve never seen any sort of apocalypse or post-apocalyptic world.  Apparently he was under a rock for all of 2009 when moviegoers saw “Knowing,” “Zombieland,” “2012,” and “The Road.”  That makes five in the span of just one year.  He leads us almost silently through this land of ruin for the movie’s first twelve minutes, a cheap rip-off of Paul Thomas Anderson’s technique from “There Will Be Blood.”  This world just looks like a desert in Arizona with a gray tint.  Aside from being incredibly tedious and boring, it’s entirely unnecessary.  Feel free to fast-forward right on through when you watch.

And then he finally gives Academy Award-winner Denzel Washington the opportunity to do something other than wander silently through the destruction.  Unfortunately, it’s just to chop off people’s hands and do some ridiculous martial-arts inspired fight sequences.  Washington’s Eli looks like a middle-aged version of Will Smith’s Hancock from two summers ago, a mess who looks like he’s fighting off the hangover of a lifetime.  So to see Eli pulling out all these moves only serves to make us laugh.  He then proceeds to find his way into a po-dunk town, mumble to everyone, anger the authority (Gary Oldman) to the point where he flees, and picks up the very attractive Solara (Mila Kunis) to accompany him on the road.

The second half almost redeems the first, seemingly a gift to all those who can bear the dismal farce.  It takes a page out of “Fahrenheit 451” – the last pages, in fact – and makes an exciting race to the West Coast for control of a powerful book that Eli is in possession of.  If you don’t already know, I’ll give you three guesses as to what book could be so valuable or powerful.  Denzel Washington begins to act, although only at a fraction of his full capabilities.  Then again, that’s still enough to draw us back in after the first half leaves us high and dry.

In the end, I was glad I didn’t allow myself to become totally disengaged.  There are some nice surprises and shocking twists at the end, two things I totally wasn’t expecting.  And in addition to the turnaround the movie made, I was left pretty satisfied.  The movie also has some interesting things to say about faith, a thematic connection that really worked.  It would have worked more, though, had it been present in the first half.  B /


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4 responses

10 08 2010
Simon/Ripley

I liked it, the first half just kind of floated by, y’know?

11 08 2010
CMrok93

I liked it, and the first half was whatever, but that second half was bangin! Loved to see The Hughes Brothers back in action. I hope their back to their good old ways of Menace II Society soon.

12 08 2010
Red

I liked it, but the more I think about it, I thought Gary Oldman was miscast. Which would an absolute first, because I normally think that he’s an underrated actor that can fit into any role and pull it off.

12 08 2010
Marshall

I love Oldman as well, and I don’t think he was necessarily miscast. He just deserves to be in better movies than this.

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