When talking about post apocalyptic movies, there is no gray area. You either get it right (Mad Max, Terminator: Salvation) or you get it wrong (Johnny Mnemonic, Tank Girl). The Book of Eli definitely got it right.
Let start with a little history of the Hughes Brothers as directors. Their feature film resume is short…very short. Wikipedia only has five films credited to them, including Book of Eli, which happens to be the only one I’ve seen. As a matter of fact, outside of the dubious honor of being on the wrong end of 2Pac’s fist (http://www.strictlyballin.net/timeline.html), this movie is the only frame of reference I have for them.
Then there’s Gary Oldman. Monster talent and definitely raises the bar for any project that he’s associated with. I had first seen him in “The Professional” and then in “Bram Stoker’s Dracula” and a couple of movies where he’s just being a dick. Then there’s Denzel.
I will be doing a review of “Training Day” soon and probably some other movies of his, but there will be a lot of cross referencing. He really was the biggest X factor in this movie. Were we going to get the versatile, mega talented Denzel that drew you into a movie and wouldn’t let you go…you know, the one that got snubbed for his portrayal of Malcolm X (He lost that year to Al Pacino for “Scent of A Woman”…seriously look it up. I’ll wait for you) or were we going to get the stuttering nervous guy from such hits as Ricochet and John Q. His history with action/adventure type movies being hit or miss at best, the stuttering nervous guy would have sunk this movie. I’m glad he stayed home. That guy gets on my nerves.
Rounding out the cast was just a very weird pick, but Mila Kunis…hot, hell yeah. Talented enough to be on screen with Gary Oldman AND bad ass Denzel?! I would have never thought it possible. This could be the role that elevates her status from hot chick to actor (…or actress, depending on how politically correct you are).
Okay, so the movie itself and how these people fit into it. The Hughes Bros did an incredible job of painting this world and pacing it so that it’s layers peeled back slowly, but not so slow as to make you lose interest. They also made sure it had it’s own look and feel to it and not end up a Road Warrior knock off. You would think that they’d run out of stuff in about 15 minutes, but no. They had enough depth of story and characters to keep this pace and keep the viewer interested the entire two hours. At each big reveal, you’d think that was “it” and now where was the movie going and they always had something else.
Now, about Mr. Washington…I’ve seen him in a few movies that were classified as action, but it wasn’t until “Training Day” that I saw him as a true bad ass, capable of carrying an action movie. I had gone off on a rant here about racism and the academy awards, but I deleted it and will save it for my review of “Training Day”. Let’s just end this by saying that he brought that same intensity to this role and it spilled out over the whole movie. Gary Oldman is an incredible actor. Almost to good. This man disappears so deep into his roles, that most of the time you just forget that it’s him that your watching. I actually had to look up his filmography to remember the movies I’ve seen him in. Even the movies that he was clearly doing for a paycheck, he never phoned it in.
I’ll try to cover the plot of this movie without spoiling to much. Eli (Washington) is on a mission to deliver a book of great importance to a location that he has never been to with only his faith as a guide. Carnegie (Oldman) runs a town and has been searching the book that Eli has in order to exploit it and increase his power. When the two cross paths, Eli finds it necessary to use Kali and a machete to deliver a biblical ass kicking to a bar full of people. Eli eventually escapes to continue his mission and has picked up a sidekick on his way out of town (Kunis). The layers of this movie continue to peel back right until the end when we are treated to a cameo by Malcolm McDowell…yup…that’s about all I feel like I can say without feeling like I’m spoiling something for those that haven’t seen it.
– Guillaume de Sade