From director pair The Hughes Brothers (From Hell) comes the story of a lone man walking across post-apocalyptic America, heading West, carrying with him a book of great importance. Denzel Washington plays Eli, this softly-spoken man on a mission who won’t let anything or anyone get in his way.
He has to hunt for food, fight off ambushers and walk, endlessly walk, towards his goal. The Earth has been damaged by a nuclear war that tore a hole in the sky, killing most of the population and blinding many survivors.
One day Eli reaches a small town presided over by a man named Carnegie (Gary Oldman). Unfortunately, Carnegie is also a man with a goal, and his goal is to find a specific book that he believes will aid him in ruling this town, and many others like it. He wants to wield the power within its pages, to use it as a weapon for controlling the people who have lost hope. And guess who has the only copy of this book…
After escaping Carnegie and his men by way of a gunfight, Eli is followed by the young Solara (Mila Kunis). He rescues her from some ambushers and she joins him on his journey. They spot a house in the empty wilderness that seems largely unaffected by the devastation and stop to pay a visit. Inside lives an elderly couple called George and Martha (Michael Gambon and Frances De La Tour) who, although appearing very nice and welcoming on the surface, hold a dark secret. When they are tracked down by Carnegie and his men, Eli must find a way to reach his destination, no matter what.
Gary Oldman is on fine baddie form and it’s nice to see him returning to the dark side after recent stints playing a guardian to Harry Potter and a comrade to Batman. Mila Kunis looks cool in her aviator shades and there’s a nice transition for her character, who grows stronger and more independent by the end, after being trapped by Carnegie’s rule for most of her life. It was quite hard to stop thinking of her as Meg from Family Guy though. There is a supporting cast of talented actors who are impressive, if a little underused. As I mentioned, Michael Gambon and Frances De La Tour appear, as do Tom Waits, Malcolm McDowell and Ray Stevenson.
Another of the film’s highlights is the cinematography. The desaturated, stark look complemented the mood, setting and story perfectly. Oscar nominated Director of Photography Don Burgess (Spider-Man, Cast Away, Forrest Gump) deserves praise and the RED digital camera (used on District 9 and Green Zone, amongst others) is gaining lots of fans.
The Book of Eli seems to divide its audience, mainly in terms of how they react to the ending. It’s definitely worth a second viewing, to spot answers to any questions the film might have raised. If you like your post-apocalyptic tales, with some good action scenes and a twist to get you thinking, this is one you should check out.