Posted by: greercn | January 18, 2010

The Book Of Eli

Hallelujah! At last, there is a new film with big ideas to get excited about. Not all of the big ideas work, but enough do that you will leave the cinema deeply satisfied and full of thoughts, as well as having had a great time.

There are two caveats. This is a very violent movie and it starts with animal cruelty – just feigned, the credits assure us, but graphic. Also, if you don’t like libertarian-spiced Westerns or the Mad Max movies, you will find the long pauses when nothing is happening annoying.

Are you still with me? Good, because this movie is so rewarding on so many levels. Denzel Washington shines like never before. I have a huge crush on Denzel and he is ageing seriously well. He brings a steely depth and determination to this role and has a lot of fun with the part he plays.

It starts out looking like another post-apocalyptic movie with anti-war and pro-ecology slants. Oh dear, you think, I waited a long time for one of those to come along and suddenly there are just too many. Denzel is walking with his backpack, across an American horror scene (they are many damaged cars, just left by the side of the road) and he fails to rescue a damsel in distress.

Then, the whole movie shifts into sharp focus. Denzel meets our baddie, Gary Oldman (the best of the current slew of British bad guys in Hollywood and menacingly dressed in all black, always). Our baddie is holding Jennifer Beals and her daughter Mila Kunis as hostages in his plan to take over the world, or, at least, New Mexico. (Older women readers will bleat that Jennifer Beals cannot possibly be old enough to be the mother. Sadly, despite our memories of “Flashdance”, she is).

Books are the big prize contraband as they were all burned (mostly) “after the war” when people decided books were the reason for the war. Fans of “Fahrenheit 451” will get little prickles down their backs, as will book lovers.

There are elements of Japanese movies of ideas and elements of the elegant fight scenes from recent Chinese movies.

In addition, there is a wonderful turn by Frances De La Tour as an American survivor with an interesting way of surviving. I saw it coming – others may or may not – but she is magnificent and I barely recognised her.

Denzel glows throughout in his quest to go west. And Mila Kunis puts in a performance which is part Doctor Who assistant and part star in her own right. I used to think that Mila was Angelina lite, but I will never think that again.

I tried to think hard about whether this was just the first film I have chosen to see in awhile, having been the guest of Air Canada’s choices and then being invited by studios to see films for free. It felt really good to wish everyone “Happy New Year” at the Stratford Picture House and I cannot tell you how thrilled I am that the heating there has finally been sorted out.

There are some serious weaknesses here. Some of the product placement is intrusive, even though I accept it’s mandatory these days. And the clothes are awfully clean, for characters who wander without benefit of showers or shampoo or laundry facilities.

But – it’s hours later – this is a great movie with more plus points than flaws. If I say more, I will give away the game of Denzel’s quest. Just for once, ideas rule and I am very glad of that.



  1. It had most of the usual post-apocalypse stuff (including the usual gang of thugs on motorbikes). There was violence and killing aplenty. Carnegie was a baddie in the best tradition. Redridge was the usual loyal henchman who is betrayed by his boss. Solara was not as weak as woman like that are often shown and Frances De La Tour was quite superb. But what was the point? Had there been another Eli carrying the Torah and another carrying an (English language) Koran?

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