The Book of Eli
by Rick Villalobos
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Caution: Reviews can f-up a perfectly good ending.
It is the same story each time: a world ruined by chaos and destruction and only a happy few get to live through it all. There is nothing better than the smell of famine and disease. Ah yes, the apocalypse. Those eccentric screwballs had it right all along. The day has come. Hear the sounds of I told you so echoing through the streets? Of course not, everyone is dead. No one really knows how reality will unfold, except for Hollywood apparently. We have a lot to learn and the big screen is where to learn it. So pay attention all of you neurotic scalawags, you don’t have much time to waste, other than the time it takes to drop off the kids at the sitters, put gas in the car, call in a sick day, and drive to the nearest theatre to watch a good flick.
The Book of Eli, directed by the Hughes brothers (Menace II Society, 1992), is a film about a man on a spiritual mission. Eli (Denzel Washington) is a loner with one hell of an attitude. He is quick, intelligent, strong, and ruthless. A man of great faith, Eli must reach his destination, the West or so he says to deliver a message. This message or the book in which it is written on is what the bad guys want. The bad guy, played by Gary Oldman, is an intelligent con artist who only seeks power and the total control of the world or what is left of it.
This Hughes brother’s film is unexpected. It is, by Hollywood standards, very violent. And it is not surprising that it keeps with the Hughes brother’s directorial repertoire. Violence has surpassed the streets of America and has reached the utmost corners of our psyche. That violence begs the question: what would you do to survive? It is violence with a purpose like those old western films.
But do not be discouraged. All the explosions and the decapitations are meant to confuse us. It is Hollywood’s way of getting us in the seats. And yes, for the most part, it works. Behind all the smoke, there is a higher meaning, that is, if we choose to listen to it and that is what this film is all about. The Book of Eli works – it has great acting, good direction and Mila Kunis, what else could you ask for?
Rick Villalobos is a writer and film critic in Chicago.
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