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 /





What To Look Forward To in … January 2010

2 12 2009

January is always an interesting month at the movies.  It is usually filled with trash, so it is usually best spent making sure you see everything that came out in December.  With this post, I hope to steer you away from what I perceive to be the month’s garbage and towards what could be a surprise hit.

January 8

Is it just me or does the trailer do all the explanation and then some for “Leap Year?”  Amy Adams will be welcome face in barren January, and if there is a breakout hit in this month, my bet is on this.

Wait – Michael Cera and teen angst?  Never seen this before!  So excited for “Youth in Revolt” that I can barely see straight!

And just in case the latest vampire movie has left your local theater by January, Hollywood has “Daybreakers” for you. This seems to have a lot less shirtlessness and a lot more blood and gore, so that might limit its appeal a tad.

January 15

“The Book of Eli” will provide the answer to a question that has me curious: how much apocalypse can moviegoers take?  2009 saw “2012,” “Knowing,” and “Zombieland,” just to name a few.  This looks like a more mainstream, BA-version of “The Road.”  Denzel Washington is a star that all respect, but “The Taking of Pelham 123” in June 2009 showed that he can’t always draw in a large audience.  Will this be the movie to get him back on track?

The Lovely Bones” plans to open wide this weekend.  Oh, and don’t get me started on how awful “The Spy Next Door” looks.

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