“Book of Eli”: Movie brings forth action, allusions

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Denzel Washington recently declared on the “Late Show with David Letterman” on CBS that his son, John David, talked him into accepting the role for the new movie “The Book of Eli.”

Denzel Washington stars as the title character in the new adventure film, "The Book of Eli," a post-apocolyptic thriller. (MCT)

Denzel Washington stars as the title character in the new adventure film, "The Book of Eli," a post-apocolyptic thriller. (MCT)

Thanks, John David.

True, the trailers portray the Hughes brothers’ work as just another post-apocalyptic, dull-toned flick. However, the mix of God and grenades brings something entirely different.

The film calls the names of anyone enticed by the occasional 120 minutes of action, which is present from the first scene of the film.

Washington’s character, Eli, is confronted by the formulaic group of hijackers: bikers with one too many tattoos and one too few teeth. Washington establishes himself once again as a strong, charismatic, not-to-be-crossed protagonist who will stop at nothing to establish his goal.

Spoiler alert: Washington doesn’t die within the first five minutes of the movie. In fact, his display of skill with a slightly larger-than-normal kitchen knife is more than slightly amusing.

That may just be the problem. In a world ravaged by the sun following a war, humor just does not seem to fit. In no way is “The Book of Eli” supposed to be a dark comedy. However, a few lines bring chuckles that just shouldn’t be had.

It seems as thought the Hughes brothers just weren’t sure what to do. They weren’t sure what to do with the tone or what to do with the characters.

Mila Kunis (think Jackie from “That ‘70s Show”) has a major role in the film as well. Her somewhat preppy and comparatively clean look frankly departs from the norm of the depressive post-apocalyptic film.

Later on, Kunis and Washington meet an old couple, Martha and George. The techno-playing, china-collecting, weapon-hoarding cannibals are clearly meant as a comic foil. Once again, while some entertainment value is there, it detracts from the message of the film.

The film’s antagonist, Carnegie, which is portrayed by Gary Oldman, sends out outlaws to kill travelers and take books in their possession. It turns out that he is looking for a copy of the Bible, which have supposedly all been burned after the war.

Of course, Washington’s journey west, Oldman’s quest intertwine, and the film itself each becomes a tale of retaining faith when all is lost. Washington carries a leather-bound book (three guesses to just what book it is) west and claims he has been wandering for 30 years through pure faith.

As the movie progresses, more and more biblical allusions and symbols are made; the death of Christ and the resurrection are practically taken verbatim.

However, one doesn’t have to have memorized the Bible to appreciate the message: in a world of turmoil, one can yet find purpose in life: to give all a sense of hope.

While “The Book of Eli” is by no means perfect, it is a profoundly powerful picture which should have many once again shouting, “Let’s all go to the movies.”

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