THE BOOK OF ELI
Review by Gordon Justesen
Stars: Denzel Washington, Gary Oldman, Mila Kunis, Ray
Stevenson, Jennifer Beals, Frances De La Tour, Michael Gambon
Directors: The Hughes Brothers
Audio: DTS HD 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.40:1
Studio: Warner Bros.
Features: See Review
Length: 118 Minutes
Release Date: June 15, 2010
“They say the war tore a hole in the sky…”
When I first saw the trailer for The Book of Eli, I was instantly sold. All that was needed to get me to see this movie were the words “Denzel Washington in a post-apocalyptic movie.” But truth be told, what sold me on the film was the appearance of these six little words during the teaser; “A Film by The Hughes Brothers.”
For one thing, I have been so eagerly awaiting a new film from twin brothers Allen and Albert Hughes for the longest time. They had been absent from feature films since their 2001 horror piece From Hell, and for a while I wondered if they would ever resurface again. To me, their return to filmmaking is an even bigger deal to me than that of James Cameron, since we knew way ahead of time what Cameron’s next film was going to be.
If there’s one thing The Hughes Brothers have demonstrated a knack for, it’s pure range. Since debuting in 1993 with their indie gem Menace II Society, each film they’ve made represents an evolution in one way or another. Dead Presidents showed what they could do with a slightly bigger budget, while From Hell illustrated that they were not intending on sticking to one specific film genre.
And The Book of Eli is further proof of the Hughes’ range. They are tackling a whole new genre, and in the process have revealed themselves to superb visionary artists. While this film isn’t so much different from many post-apocalyptic movies, and it certainly doesn’t measure up to the power of something like The Road, the touches that the Hughes Brothers bring to it definitely make it a worthy addition to the genre.
Eli (Denzel Washington) is a loner who has been walking across an American wasteland for thirty years straight. It is implied that a nuclear war of some time led to way things are at the present time. At any rate, Eli moves from place to place hunting for food, water and other means of survival.
Desperately in need of a battery being recharged (in the old fashioned way, mind you), Eli makes a pit stop in the next town he comes across, which looks oddly enough like the small towns you’d see in the old west. His plan is to wait for the local repairman to fix his battery, and then to leave town and be on his way.
But Eli doesn’t make many friends in town, mainly because it’s mostly populated with murderous thugs working under Carnegie (Gary Oldman), the town overlord. And everyone seems to be interested in what Eli is carrying in his possession, which is a mysterious and rather large book. And Eli is not about to let anyone tamper with or even touch this book, which then leads to him delivering a number of brutal beat downs.
Once Carnegie learns of what Eli is carrying, he vows to take the man down just to claim it. Carnegie happens to be an active book burner, but this particular book is one that can give him power and control the townspeople. The book in question, and I’m not giving anything away that other reviews haven’t, is the last remaining King James Bible in existence.
Of all recent films to include religion in one aspect or
another, The Book of Eli deals with it in the most satisfying way. It’s
not the slightest bit preachy, and the overall message concerning religion is
one I completely agree with. It’s great to believe in it, but in the wrong hands
religion can be a most dangerous weapon.
The true power of the film comes from the look and the set design of this apocalyptic world. Watching the movie, I assumed it was adapted from a graphic novel judging from the grungy look as well as many eye gazing shots of Eli wandering about the landscape. The fact that The Hughes Brothers were able to conceive these amazing visuals for an original property illustrates their filmmaking passion.
Again, had it not been released so soon after The Road, which is one of the best post-apocalyptic films you will ever see, I would’ve indeed had a stronger reaction to The Book of Eli. Nonetheless, the movie works as both a hardcore action piece and a thought provoking cautionary story. That’s truly a rare mix to find in any film, and The Hughes Brothers handle the balance perfectly.
This visually striking film is made even more effective by way of an amazing Blu-ray presentation courtesy of Warner. The work of both The Hughes Brothers and cinematographer Don Burgess (Forrest Gump, Contact, The Polar Express) is nothing short of astonishing to gaze upon. In high def, it’s an even bigger treat for the visual senses. The film was shot on the RED One HD camera, which was the same format used for District 9, which should indicate just how remarkable of a presentation one is to expect from this release.
The film is also one hell of an aural experience, thanks largely to the phenomenal DTS HD mix. Though the action here isn’t necessarily wall to wall, the effect you will feel during the fight scenes and shootouts is one of sheer, top notch potency. The lossless sound also makes effective use of the haunting music score provided by Atticus Ross, which will also stick with you long after watching the movie.
This Blu-ray release from Warner comes loaded with lethal extras you won’t find anywhere else. First off, there’s the Maximum Movie Mode Survival Guide, which is a dynamic Picture-in-Picture presentation featuring endless behind the scenes glances and interviews with The Hughes Brothers and various crew members. Definitely an informative experience as far as the filmmaking is concerned. Also included is a “Focus Points” featurette gallery, which includes over a half hour of behind the scenes material. Among these featurettes are “The Look of Eli”, “Underpass Fight”, “Building Carnegie’s Town”, “The Motorcycle Brigade”, “Eli Goes to Battle”, “Eli’s Mission”, “Shootout at George and Martha’s”, “Eli’s Weapon of Choice”, “Solara Causes Mayhem” and “Apocalyptic San Francisco”. We also two fascinating extras in the form of “Behind the Story: Starting Over” and “Eli’s Journey”, which both take a look what could happen to us if the world ever reach an apocalyptic state like the one in the movie. Lastly, there’s “A Lost Tale: Billy”, a motion graphic novel that focuses on Carnegie, Deleted and Alternate Scenes and a look at the film’s soundtrack.
This Combo Pack release also comes with a second disc containing the DVD version of the film and a third disc which carries a Digital Copy.
The Book of Eli is without question required viewing for die hard fans of the post-apocalyptic genre, as well as die hard fans of Denzel Washington, Gary Oldman and The Hughes Brothers. Each individual artist is in top form here in this brilliant looking and often powerful end of the world tale.