In a violent post apocalyptic America, Eli (Denzel Washington) has been wandering westward for thirty years. Eli possesses incredible fighting skills, skills he uses to protect a unique book that he is carrying, a book he reads every day and that he is willing to protect with his life.
When Eli wanders into a desert town to barter some goods, he is lured into a fight in the local bar. Eli kills all of the assailants and is offered a job by the town ruler, Carnegie (Gary Oldman), a man in search of a specific book. Carnegie sends Solara (Mila Kunis), the teenage daughter of his blind Lover Claudia (Jennifer Beals) to Eli’s room as a temptation. Eli refuses her but allows the girl to stay so as not to displease Carnegie. During the night Solara sees the book and informs Carnegie. The next day as Eli leaves town Carnegie makes his move for the book… Oh, by the way, did you get that there is an important book in the movie? Carnegie ensues, Eli and Solara head out into the desert…
The movie looks incredible, the sets and locations are awesome and really set the tone. The design departments have all done amazing work on the movie, placing the characters in a believable world. The cinematography makes great use of the light and shadow, framing Eli in a messianic light more times than the average rock star in an MTV clip.
The cast are all pretty good; Denzel Washington is as solid as ever, he can telephone in these kinds of performances. Gary Oldman delivers a typically on edge character turn and Mila Kunis shows why she’s destined for better things. There are also a good cameos by Michael Gambon and Frances De La Tour as two old, possibly cannibal, survivors who initially shelter Eli and Solara before a ridiculously over the top ‘The Gauntlet’ style set-piece. However that’s pretty much the only praise I can give to ‘The Book of Eli’.
The script is woefully clichéd and delivers one of the worst endings I’ve ever seen. Not the wonderful surprise that scriptwriter Gary Whitta and directors the Hughes Brothers, Albert and Allen must have hoped for. The Hughes Brothers early efforts, the impressive ‘Menace II Society’ and ‘Dead Presidents’ gave us hope that there were great things to come. On this evidence and the horrible mess that was ‘From Hell’ (how could they fail, the book was a perfect storyboard!) they have regressed to nothing more than capable of the odd stylish shot. They would make great music promos but as far as linear storytelling is concerned they are sadly lacking. The religious propaganda was stomach churning and so bad as to make ‘Wanted’ look like a fun movie! A massive opportunity wasted.
Quality: 3 out of 5 stars (2 of those are for the visuals)
Any good: 1 out of 5 stars