Saturday, 7 August 2010

Book of Eli

A story of pilgrimage, hope and faith in the midst of a post-apocalyptic USA. Thirty years after the end of the war the USA is a wasteland with gangs of armed marauders ready to bush-whack anyone they encounter to steal their shoes, water or even just for the fun of it. Eli has been heading West for 30 years. He heard a voice that led him to a book and which then told him to take it to the West - to a receptive community. He only seeks a peaceful passage as he continues on his pilgrimage but if anyone stands in his way he is prepared to kill - not to save his own life, but to preserve the book and ensure it reaches it's final destination.

Okay, so the film is largely a pretext for Denzel Washington to engage in lots of armed combat against impossible odds. There are a number of cool fight scenes - with some wonderful Matrix-type camera work on one or two of them.

The narrative offers the opportunity to explore what the rules are in a rule-less world. The invitation is declined and the bloodfest continues. Given the nature of the book Eli is transporting, this has to be a wasted opportunity.

The narrative is also unable to resist pairing the hero up with a female - although nothing romantically comes of it. However, Solara does manage to mysteriously escape from a cave she is locked in and she does show initiative and guile in helping speed Eli on his journey making it end all too quickly - seeing that it took him 30 years to get that far!

I won't spoil it by saying where they end up, but the fact that it is a 'secure and isolated' community begs lots of questions about the freedom the book is supposedly meant to offer. The movie might prompt questions about the nature of calling, (blind) faith and pilgrimage if the viewer is sensitive to them but for me these were played too softly. Solara's mother is blind and where/how/why did Eli learn the language of the book?

Whilst the combat scenes are visually gratifying, I found little else to commend this film - it played everything that could be engaging way too soft. Too much of Eli's back story is missing so there is no meaningful context to the journey he is on.

I'll give it 5/10.

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