Hell hath frozen: The Book of Eli Review

I’m keeping an eye out for flying pigs. Two things that I would have never thought would happen have occurred in the movie The Book of Eli. First, a major Hollywood movie presents a Christian faith honestly and without a detracting negative, and secondly a movie that I would definitely call “Christian” totally kicks ass.

Just a quick synopsis, The Book of Eli is about a post apocalyptic world where one man (Eli/Denzel Washington) walks through the wasteland with a precious possession and a mission, the possession- the last Bible, the mission-take it west. In this quest Eli comes across a town overlord who has been searching for the book hoping to use the power of religion to expand his power. Copious amounts of sword fighting, gunplay and explosions ensue.

The utterly dystopian future the Hughes brothers present stands tall with The Road Warrior and in my opinion exceeds Road Warrior in creating a world where humanity is truly fallen. Cannibalism is commonplace, water is the most precious commodity, and wet naps are currency in this world. The feel is really reminiscent of Japanese anime samurai movies complete with the samurai. Denzel Washington plays the wandering aged warrior perfectly. It seems weird to say that the fifty six year old Washington plays an awesome action character but man Eli is borderline iconic. He’s a man who has a code of honor and a quest that He takes by faith and acts accordingly. He’s soft-spoken, even kind to those who confront him, but if you touch him or get near his backpack he will surely f#$@ your shit up with righteous vengeance. (This movie is definitely in the running for the greatest Bible quote before an action sequence.)

The great contrast/conflict in this movie is about faith, or rather between a view of what faith is and true faith. Carnegie (Gary Oldman), views faith as an opiate of the masses, a way to placate and subjugate others (even for their own good). Eli’s faith is honest and genuine in the God of the Bible. Carnegie knows about the Bible, Eli has memorized it. It’s at this point that I have to say yes Denzel’s portrayal of Eli’s faith is that positive and honest, Eli believes in God, that God spoke to him, and that God will protect him. He even admits that it sounds crazy and it doesn’t make sense. (I loved Eli trying to explain “walking by faith and not by sight”.) There really is a deep movie underneath the action and gore. Sadly it’s the “deep” of the movie that I came away wanting more of. As great as Oldman is as obsessive Carnegie, I would have liked to see a little more of “really I’m doing this for the people”. It would have been even more poignant a point to make that a personal faith walked out is more powerful than imposed “faith” even if it’s “for the good of the people” which really is just for the good of the person in power. Also with Eli I would have liked to see a little more of his journey of faith fleshed out. At one point Eli states that he’s been carrying the book for so long that he forgot that he was supposed to do what was in it. That’s Eli’s conflict. That’s his story. It’s not that these deeper notes aren’t hit but I wanted them to play out a little longer and louder.

Perhaps the biggest irony of this film is that the thing that “scars” it is beautiful. Mila Kunis is so oddly out of place simply because she is the only unblemished thing in the movie. Somewhere there was a monumental breakdown in character design. Kunis looks as if she’s about to head out to Starbucks then Ambercrombie. It’s not even that she acts poorly in the role. Give her a facial scar or withered hand, something that makes her less than perfect. Perhaps then the audience wouldn’t have the uncomfortable experience of feeling that a scene that should be repulsive feels warranted.

Even with this detraction I’m going to do something that again I never thought I’d do. Wholeheartedly endorse a “Christian” movie. This is going up there in my favorite of all time movie lists. Go see it.

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