The Book of Eli

Posted: April 19, 2010 in Movies

The Book of Eli opens with a day in the life of it’s lead, played by Denzel Washington.  He’s wandering post-apocalyptic America, scavenging abandoned houses for supplies etc, eating what he can, seemingly praying, and listening to Al Green on an MP3 player.

Early on he encounters some bandits. Washington gets a nice bad-ass line in “If you put your hand on me again you won’t get it back.” In a silhouette shot we see Eli take out the bandits with a machete. Gore is present but very fast.

We learn that Eli is heading west, but we don’t know why yet. We see that although he has great fighting ability, he’s not heroic per-say. He watches a biker gang kill a man and rape his wife, but Eli does not stop them, muttering to himself that he must stay on the path.

He comes to a town where we see instead of currency everything is bartered. KFC wet-naps are prized possessions. The biker gang from the previous scene arrives and they meet the towns leader Carnegie (Gary Oldman) and give him some books they’ve scavenged. We see The Davinci Code and Oprah’s magazine have survived. The gang can’t read so they don’t know what these books are. Carnegie does (in his opening shot he’s reading about Mussolini) and says the book he’s really looking for isn’t here.

The bikers end up fighting Eli anyway over a simple misunderstanding. After which Carnegie offers his hospitality by letting him stay the night, hoping he’ll stay longer. He, like Eli, survived the apocalypse and remembers the “Old World.” Carnegie seems like a swell guy at first, he gives what may be the last shampoo on earth to a woman named Claudia, who we might assume to be his wife. He seems loving to her, at first.  She comes to his room with food and we see that she’s blind. She can tell he’s not going to stay, so next Carnegie sends Solara, the bar girl, to seduce him. Claudia, in tears, begs Carnegie not to do this, and we know why later when we find out Solara is her daughter.  Eli does not give in, but the two get some exposition in about the state of things.

Apparently 30 years prior there was some kind of war. Eli remembers “The world before,” when people had more than they needed, and threw away things people kill each other for now. This was an effective way of having an environmental message without beating it over your head like say, Avatar did. In this scene Eli also teaches Solora how to pray, something she has no knowledge of. That was a nice touch.

We also learn that Eli is carrying the Bible with him, which maybe could have been guessed earlier. Eli does quote scripture before delivering thy whoop-ass (At one point he also quotes Johnny Cash). Carnegie now shows his true brutal colors and reveals his flaw, greed. This world is a barren abysmal place, and Carnegie has done quite well for himself, but he wants more. He thinks if he has the Bible he’ll be able to control more towns, etc. Just as people were in the old world, he wants more than he needs.

This is a rare movie in that the inciting incident doesn’t come till around the 50 minute mark, but now it’s on. Solara runs off with Eli and the bads chase them for the book.

Eli is not a perfect hero, he comes to realize at times he’s too caught up in his quest and forgets the actual teachings of the book he’s protecting.  In a great campfire scene he tells Solara the story of how after the war he heard a voice inside himself. It led him to the Bible which was in a pile of rubble. He knew he was to protect this book and he reads it every day. (After the war people burned all Bibles they could find, because they thought the Bible caused the war) His faith is leading him to the west coast. Of course at the end we discover why he’s going west.

One problem I had midway through was a scene where Eli tries to ditch Solara by locking her inside something and then continues his journey. Later we see her on the road. We don’t know how she got out, but she runs afoul of bandits. Eli saves her, but wouldn’t he have been further down the road than her? So how could he have ran across her? That bothered me.

Another thing that bothered me was at the very end Eli says he in specifically has a King James Version of the Bible. Some Christians argue a lot over different versions of the bible, and some think that the King James version is the only correct one. This movie should not have made issue with which translation Eli had.

We’ve all seen apocalypse movies by now, but this still managed to add little touches that were unique. Cannibalism is lightly touched on, never shown. Early on Eli shows his hands to townspeople, we don’t know why. Later we learn eating human meat makes your hands shake. A later scene where Eli and Solara meet two cannibals shows this, but it’s not as tense as it could be.

Still this is one of the best movies I’ve seen in a while. It’s very moving and has a great twist at the end . 9.25 out of ten.

On a personal note, in the last 100 years, the Church has been very afraid of popular culture. From the very beginning it’s objected to movies, rock n roll, etc. Only since around the 70s has it tried embracing it, but still keeps itself in a bubble. One reason (in my opinion) a lot of Contemporary Christian Music isn’t that good is because it keeps itself in a bubble. When you tell art it has to be something it just doesn’t work.

Anyway my point is more quality movies like this, as well as other media can be made and can be reached by a “mainstream audience”. This can be done if Christians embrace the culture instead of running from it.

Love and honor God in all you do.


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