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Sunday, 31 January 2010

Review: The Book Of Eli (15) ★★
A post-apocalyptic tale, in which a lone man fights his way across America in order to protect a sacred book that holds the secrets to saving humankind

The Book Of Eli came out at roughly the same time as The Road, another post-apocalyptic movie, and although there are many similarities its still a very different film all the same.

Denzel Washington is Eli, a wanderer travelling to the west of America where he says a voice within him told him to go. There has been a huge war which has scorched the atmosphere and thus the sun has burnt everything it can. He carries with him a bible that he read for the last thirty years of his travels and as we find out is the only one left in the world. On his way to the west he comes across a small town where he runs into trouble with the locals and this is where we meet Gary Oldman's Carnegie. He's the bad guy in town, sending out cronies to look for a certain book. You can see where this is going right? Cue fight scenes and Mad Max type road rage as Carnegie tries to get his hands on the sacred book.

Now where Eli differs from the Road is that its very much more popcorn orientated. The Road is very under-played with a sense of dread and empathy running right through the soul of it, Eli however is grandiose in its spectacle, fight scenes galore, explosions and guns everywhere you turn along with over the top characters. Now this worked for Mad Max but I'm afraid doesn't work for Eli. Max had a heart and was rampaging with a reason, with Eli your not really sure why and to be quite honest you end up not really caring either.

Washington plays Eli very glumly, he's no fun to be around but boy can he fight. In several fight scenes he takes out gang members with a flick of his huge knife without blinking an eye. With Washington you expect quality with this sort of role but for me he just didn't seem to be with it or again even care, hence the reason why you lose the connection with the character. Gary Oldman ham's it up to maximum levels with Carnegie. Its the token baddie where crazy eyed stares and flamboyant arm waving are the order of the day, oh and don't forget the trademark Oldman shouting. Mila Kunis plays Solara the 'young kid in trouble' and is completely annoying throughout and easily forgettable.

The visuals of the film tended to be quite distracting, its shot with a kind of bright sepia tone which in itself is quite a toll on the eyes of the viewer. Now this was obviously intended but I did find myself having to squint a few times. The landscapes and clothing are all bog standard post-apocalyptic themes with nothing new, barren landscapes ragged coats and cars covered in metal plates (gunna be hot with that sun glaring down!).

All of the above added up to be quite a bore if I'm brutally honest, Washington not really caring, Oldman trying to save the day but really just phoning in a performance and Kunis being annoying. Visuals that distracted and showed nothing new and then there's the ending.

There is a twist to ending which I found ludicrous at best with the last scene in particular being cheese of the highest order and senseless. It felt like it was tagged on just so they could add more to the film, its like handing in your English story in primary school and the teacher giving it back saying ... 'it needs more' when really you know its fine as it is.

So not a great experience, and save for a few good fight scenes which save this from one star mediocrity its one to really not bother with. The Road for the win.


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