Directed by: The Hughes Brothers
Premise: In a post-apocalyptic future, a mysterious traveler (Denzel Washington) carries a sacred book across the wasteland. The brutal leader (Gary Oldman) of a small outpost wants the book for its ability to inspire followers.
What Works: The Book of Eli is a smartly made action film. It has the requisite action scenes but there is a focus on theme and story here that elevates it above others. The film’s commentary on the value of the written word and the way in which it can be used has a lot of interesting implications and the filmmakers deserve praise for the way in which they infuse smart ideas into an action film. The Book of Eli also has some well timed humor to it, which lightens the mood in the right places, keeping the film from getting too bogged down in its own seriousness. The performances by Washington and Oldman are impressive, if adequate, but Ray Stevenson and Mila Kunis do a nice job in supporting parts, expanding their roles beyond stock sidekicks and bringing a lot of life and reality to the film.
What Doesn’t: The Book of Eli owes a lot to films like The Road Warrior, 28 Days Later, and I am Legend. Visually there isn’t much here that hasn’t been seen before, but it does do the genre well. The ending is a mix of clever irony with some stretches in credibility, although a viewer’s interpretation of the conclusion will partly depend on what he or she brings to the theater.
Bottom Line: The Book of Eli is good action film. However derivative its look may be, the film is smart and very entertaining.
Episode: #274 (January 24, 2010)