The Good Book

Article excerpt

Byline: Lisa Miller

In the post-apocalyptic world of The Book of Eli, the most precious things on earth are a trial-size bottle of shampoo; a cache of hand wipes, individually wrapped; and the last existing copy of the King James Bible. Denzel Washington, cast as the cowboy-monk Eli, is on a mission from God. He has to carry that Bible through a landscape populated by murderous, illiterate, cannibalistic roughnecks to a safe place he saw in a dream. Eli may not be Jesus, exactly--the Christian Lord would never have been so deft with a machete--but he is in possession of some God-given magic. This protects him, his puppyish girl companion (Mila Kunis), and the book during their long journey.

An honorable prophet guarding the word of God for the future of humankind would seem an overblown premise for an action-buddy movie, but Washington is more than cartoonish. The Book of Eli provokes us to imagine all our values turned upside down. "We had more than we needed," remembers Eli of the time before the war. "We had no idea what was precious and what wasn't. …