Tuesday 9 February 2010

Back on the Road

The title I have given this says it all: The Book of Eli is The Road by any other name. Here we are once again in a post-apocalyptic world; here we are in another bleak landscape populated by cannibals and other oddities, as the one ‘just man’ makes another pointless journey. Quite frankly I for one have had enough of this unremittingly bleak vision, entertainment for the age of global warming. But while The Road at least attempted to make a novel point in a novel way The Book of Eli is both predictable and unbelievably obvious.

Once again I’m shooting ahead. The Book of Eli is a movie directed by the Hughes brothers, staring Denzel Washington as Eli, the good, and Gary Oldman as Carnegie, who manages an effective combination of the bad and the ugly.

The good, the bad and the ugly may give you a clue. What we have here is a post-apocalyptic western with overtones of Mad Max. Eli is the man with no name for the modern age, who manages an air of justice while cutting down people in a rapid and wholesale manner.

But that’s not Eli’s secret, no; his secret is a book, ‘the Book’, which he is carrying. Carnegie has a secret too; he is looking for ‘the Book’; his illiterate henchmen are scouring the land looking for ‘the Book’ on his behalf, throwing all sorts of rubbish at his feet, including the Da Vinci Code! Why, is he looking for ‘the Book’; does it contain magic spells; is it a source of power, a plumber’s manual, perhaps? Well, it depends on your point of view, but ‘the Book’ turns out to be the Bible, the last copy left in this desolate world. Now here we enter the territory of Indian Jones, of Raiders of the Lost Ark, where a holy object simply invests power on its possessor, no matter the character and intentions of the said possessor!

This is a silly, rambling, portentous movie with a more than usually unbelievable plot. The only thing that kept me watching, the only thing that kept me in the theatre, was the forlorn hope that if must get better - surely it must?-, that and the performance of Denzel Washington, who never fails to impress, no matter how bad the script. And it is bad, as bad as they get. I just found the messianic and religious overtones repellent. If there was a message it was one that I did not warm to, could not warm to.

In the end Carnegie gets a hold of ‘the Book’. He will use it to build up a following, to build up a new state based on the Word, his Word. Ah, but he can’t, you see, and I’m not going to tell you why he can’t. Go and see for yourself. If I can sit through this tripe so can you. :-))

Yes, Carnegie gets ‘the Book’ while Eli, mortally wounded, goes further west in the company of a girl named Solaris, played by Mila Kunis, his new disciple. They make it to a civilized and literate community based on Alcatraz, of all places. Here Eli dictates the contents of ‘the Book’, which he has memorised, to Lombardi, a scribe played by Malcolm McDowell, looking as old as Methuselah. Now another secret is revealed about Eli, which I also refuse to divulge. But the biggest secret has to be what kept him alive long enough to dictate the whole Bible before shuffling off this mortal coil. The power of the Word, perhaps?

If you like rubbish served in a wholly egregious, self-righteous and preachy fashion this is your movie; it’s not mine. I’m sure it will be a big hit with the evangelicals, though. :-)


  1. Saw this film the other week. I took it to mean that "the book" must be a highly regarded piece of literary fiction, as the Englishman who managed to end up on Alcatraz (to let American audiences know this operation is in the hands of the right accent?) referenced Shakespeare along with the Encylopedia Britannica, and "the book" wouldn't be factual so it must be the former, a narrative (alongside it's sister book - to show that both fictions are equal; a quaint closing shot, letting the audience know that it needn't take the end of the world for people to realise we're all human and we all need to get along once we realise that no one fiction need take away from any other *bleh*).

    The filter on the camera was the most irritating part of the film for me. I also couldn't understand why Eli thought it'd be better sticking such an important book in a heavily armed library, rather than spreading the good word and giving people hope in a clearly grim environment. It'd be years before they manage to print off enough copies and literacy rates are high enough for it to take effect. It's quite utilitarian, clearly hasn't got much problem killing, nor letting people suffer for the greater good, or postponing "civilisation" for when the time is right.

    The twist was poor I agree. I'll probably rewatch to check his eye-line.

    Edge of Darkness is a film worth checking out. A fairly decent thriller (never saw the original TV series), which sees the return of Mel Gibson and a nice supporting role from Ray Winstone.

  2. It's exactly the same filter used on The Road. I'll have a look for Edge of Darkness, Jimmy. Thanks.