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"Book Of Eli" - {Blu-ray} - (Chris}
Reviewer:
Chris Pandolfi
Studio: Warner Brothers
Genre:
Drama
Release Date:
6/15/2010
Special Features:

Maximum Movie Mode/A Lost Tale: Billy animated short /Starting Over /The Book of Eli Soundtrack /Eli's Journey /Additional Scenes

Review:

One does not usually begin a movie review by talking about the ending, but in the case of "The Book of Eli," there's really no other way to go about it. Something, and I'm trying to be careful here, is revealed, something that's implausible but also undeniably clever. After the revelation, we discover what has been driving the main character to do what he does, and that's when it all come crashing down - this movie goes a long way for very little. How could the Hughes Brothers have let their film be so grossly undermined, especially after giving the audience a thoroughly absorbing buildup? I'm so disappointed. This movie could have been something. Up until the end, it really was something.***

The story takes place in a post apocalyptic world of barren landscapes, effectively made to look harsh through a combination of overly bright lighting and muted color schemes. Broken highways trail across vast deserts. Cities lie in ruin. Ancient-looking cars litter the scenery, and some still contain the remains of their drivers. Drought reigns supreme. Everything is scarce, including food. The remaining population consists almost entirely of thieves, and some have even resorted to cannibalism. The reason for all this is left a little obscure; the characters keep referring to a cataclysmic event known as The Flash, which I interpret as being either a meteor or a solar flare. It also could have been manmade - a nuclear bomb, or something.***

Wandering across this wasteland is Eli (Denzel Washington), a loner on a mission. He has the fighting skills of an assassin, able to take on groups of people singlehandedly and emerge victorious, even when chainsaws and machineguns are involved. He seems astutely aware of his surroundings, and his sense of hearing is unbelievably strong. He has lightning-quick reflexes, as if somehow seeing everything before it actually happens. But he never makes it his business to fight; he's just trying to head west. He has been for the last thirty years, ever since The Flash took place. What exactly is waiting for him there? He's remains mum on the subject. I can't help but love it when the Mysterious Stranger lives up to his name.***

He makes a pit stop in a ramshackle town run by Carnegie (Gary Oldman), a wholly deplorable man who sends his flunkies out in search of a very specific book. No power on earth will make me reveal exactly what book it is. I will say that Eli just happens to be in possession of such a book and that, because of a social uprising soon after The Flash, it's the last of its kind. As a result, a select few know of its existence. Eli wants the book because he believes it will be the key to humanity's redemption. Carnegie wants the book because he can use it as a weapon. When all is explained at the end, we realize with great disillusionment that Carnegie's motives make a reasonable argument for why this book should have remained forgotten.***

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Eli bonds with Solara (Mila Kunis), daughter of Claudia (Jennifer Beals), Carnegie's blind concubine. Not much is known about Solara; the most we get is that, like many who were born after The Flash, she never learned how to read. But it's not really about getting to know her, anyway; it's about her relationship with Eli, the way she questions him about life before The Flash, why he's so intent on heading west, and whether or not he can teach her how to read. Eli is alarmingly unresponsive on the subject of reading, and we don't understand why until the end.***

And that brings me back to where I started. A mystery is only as good as its solution; if what leads up to the ending is better than the actual ending, you've failed at telling a successful story. The big revelation at the end of "The Book of Eli" is immensely unsatisfying, not only because it sends a message that contradicts certain events of the story, but also because it lacks the inventiveness and scope of the film's opening and middle sections. It was a bait and switch. I felt cheated.***

Special Features:

Maximum Movie Mode/A Lost Tale: Billy animated short /Starting Over /The Book of Eli Soundtrack /Eli's Journey /Additional Scenes

Final Words:

All the same, there are many recommendable things about this movie. The buildup is carefully structured and wonderfully paced. The visuals are stunning. The dialogue is decent. The performances are good, especially Oldman's. It's just the ending that's bad. This is a strange situation. I'm urging you to avoid "The Book of Eli," but because my review has been so vague, seeing it may be the only way for you to understand where I'm coming from. I really wanted to like this film. Up until the final five minutes, I did like it very much. So maybe it would be worth your while to go and then leave before everything is revealed. In this case, that would not be a waste of money. Trust me on this one.

 

 
 
 
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