The Book of Eli (2010)

Word on the street

Religious and moral overtones echo loudly throughout The Book of Eli, but that shouldn’t discourage you from opening its pages. Those that do will be rewarded with a visually stunning, thought-provoking film that features a mesmerising performance from Denzel Washington at its heart.

He is Eli, a lone man making his way across the harshlands of America after the country – and, one assumes, the world – has been annihilated by an unnamed catastrophe. As he traverses this post-apocalyptic terrain he encounters those that would do him harm, giving him the chance to showcase some truly spectacular combat skills. When he passes through a small town, he encounters the ruthless Carnegie (Gary Oldman), a man desperately searching for a single book that will bring him ultimate power. Upon learning Eli is in possession of the book, Carnegie makes it his mission to take it from here; something Eli cannot let him do, no matter what the cost…

Although it has shades of John Hillcoat’s recent adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, The Book of Eli isn’t as subtle or as nuanced in its vision of the apocalypse. Whereas The Road‘s narrative pushed the importance of humanity to survival and rebuilding, here the message is that spirituality – or, more specifically, religion – holds the key to a brighter future; but only in the right hands, of course. At times it’s a forced message, but Washington’s enigmatic performance, along with Don Burgess’s evocative cinematography, keeps the film moving through some of its heavier didactic moments. Indeed, in places The Book of Eli plays out like a great Western – a lone hero fighting to protect old-fashioned honour and values from those who seek to corrupt it, those expansive landscapes – and although its ponderous pace may frustrate those expecting a more bombastic end of the world story, its an interesting film that carries the courage of its convictions to the end. 3 stars

Extra Features
A couple of featurettes and deleted scenes can be found on both formats, while the Blu-ray also contains a look behind the scenes and interviews. 2.5 stars

Stars Denzel Washington, Gary Oldman
Directors Albert Hughes & Allen Hughs
Distributor Entertainment in Video
Format DVD & Blu-ray
Released May 31