What is The Book of Eli?

The Book of EliThe first time I was exposed to The Book of Eli was at San Diego Comic-Con in 2009.  I sat there rather unimpressed by the footage Warner Brothers screened.  What I was most interested in was how hot Mila Kunis was going to look like in person, whether Gary Oldman would comment on the status of the third Batman movie and an exclamation of “Oh my God!”…I am in the same room as the legendary Denzel Washington.  However, crowd reaction to the footage, other than mine, was rather explosive.  Although, if you show anything to the demographics of the movie worshippers in the crowded room of Hall H you are most likely to solicit a positive response.  You have to try really hard not to. 

Since those summer days of past, the buzz about this film has grown rather quickly and yet trailer after trailer I still remain unimpressed.  The action sequences just seemed dull and lifeless to me and it ultimately just felt stale like every other post-apocalyptic movie that has come before it.  So what exactly is the Book of Eli?  I still had no idea (I allow for no spoilers), but for some reason I found myself dying to want to know.  I guess my second birth name is Curious George.  My curiosity about this film was peaked at an all-time high recently, sparked by a conversation with a mutual friend.  He was recounting how he read that Denzel has not been this excited about a project since his work in the late 90’s.  Now that my friends, had me intrigued.

The Book of Eli

While I was unable to make the first press screening of the film I was luckily able to secure attendance at a second one.  As usual, when the buzz grows strong about a movie, I find myself with high expectations.  The Book of Eli was no exception to this unfortunate rule of mine.  In addition to the familiar faces of Denzel, Mila and Gary the film also stars Ray Stevenson (Punisher: War Zone) and Jennifer Beals (from the 1983 favorite Flashdance).  The Hughes Brothers (Albert and Allen) were brought on to direct the post-apocalyptic script written by Gary Whitta.  They have been M.I.A. in the movie community since 2001’s From Hell (a film I just did not care too much for).

So, let’s get the million dollar question over with shall we?  What exactly is the book of Eli?  C’mon, did you really think I was going to tell you?  You can’t be that naïve.  But what I will tell you is that once again my high expectations got the best of me.  The Book of Eli is far from being the worst movie I will probably see this year, but I can almost guarantee it’s not going to be one of the best.  At least I hope not.  This may sound elementary, but simply put there is both good and bad to witness in the film.  I’m not going to trash it and say it was awful because it wasn’t.  There were some really unique elements explored in the sepia world of The Book of Eli, but unfortunately much of it was lost in the slow moving drabbed pace of the film.  This crawling pace is what ultimately did me in.  That all too familiar feeling from last March resonated in my head as I felt like I was re-living my Watchmen theatrical experience all over again.  There were so many ways in which this film could have excelled, but it never truly flourished.  It’s like having a beautiful garden and not watering it.  Everything just dies.  However, with the bad usually I can find some good.  There were brief moments of genius like when we found out exactly what’s inside this book and also some much needed comic relief, but everything else just seemed as drab as the sepia drenched environment that you are forced to endure the film’s entire runtime. 

The Book of Eli

Thankfully, everything negative I said above does not apply to the performances of the three main actors within this film.  Denzel is great no matter how you cast him, but every time I see Oldman he impresses me more and more.  There’s no doubt that he makes a great villain.  His role here was a little bit Jokeresque and a whole lot of Bram Stoker’s Dracula (a horror icon he redefined so many years ago).  I could not help myself from seeing his Dracula character just begging to take flight once again and grace the silver screen.  When you see the film hopefully you will understand where I am coming from.  And Mila?  Well you can’t fault her.  She did everything that was asked of her in this production.  I am longing for the day when we really get to see Mila in a role that truly tests her acting chops.  C’mon!  Someone cast her in something good!

So yes, back to what The Book of Eli truly is.  You quickly find out that the film is a little Mad Maxin the fact that it takes place in a future after a nuclear war nearly did the Earth in.  It mixes elements of post-apocalyptic mayhem and cannibalism as it explores deeper topics such as you guessed it…religion.  Going in I just knew the film would be going there.  It’s hard to resist powerful topics such as religion and its affiliated symbolism in films and art.  Eli (Washington) is a nomad on a 30-year old mission traveling to the West Coast and Gary Oldman plays the villain who will stop at nothing to capture the book that Eli carries.  What’s so special about this book you are probably still wondering.  Let’s just say that no life is spared in defense of it.  That’s all I will say.  Mila plays Eli’s helpless sidekick and quickly learns the ropes in order to stay alive.  Secretly, her character needs Eli just as much as he needs her, although he really doesn’t know it. 

The Book of Eli

In conclusion, I can’t recommend The Book of Eli as a must-see film, but I do urge fans of Denzel, Mila and Oldman to give it a try if they have any itch of curiosity as I initially did.  Who knows?  You just might like it.  I heard many people walking away from the screening saying they enjoyed it and that it was much better than 2009’s The Road.  However, in my opinion I would strongly encourage a matinee showing just to be on the safe side.  It’s better that way anyway.  You are less prone to fall asleep during the day than you are at night.  This will not make my top ten list of the year, but I was very happy to finally find out what’s so special about Eli’s book.  The final payoff was well worth it.  I am awarding the film a final score of a C+ because of its pacing issues and the fact that it just did not make me walk out of the theater with a euphoria feeling of I can’t wait to buy and revisit this one on Blu-ray.  This one is a closed book for me. 


The Book of Eli




Owner/Writer/Reviewer/Editor, Dreamer, Producer, Agent of Love, Film Lover, Writer of Screenplays and a Devoted Apostle to all things Ford Mustangs (the real ones with V8's!). Some of my favorite films include FIGHT CLUB, MOULIN ROUGE, THE DARK KNIGHT, STAR WARS alongside television shows such as SEINFELD, 24, SANFORD & SON and even the often loathed in the geek community BIG BANG THEORY. Outside of my three lives I live I also enjoy spending time with my girlfriend and our three girls (of the furry kind).

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