Magazine article The Christian Century

The Book of Eli

Magazine article The Christian Century

The Book of Eli

Article excerpt

The Book of Eli

Directed by Albert and Allen Hughes

Starring Denzel Washington, Gary Oldman, Jennifer Beals and Mila Kunis

As soon as you hear the title, you can probably guess what kind of film The Book of Eli is going to be. Yes, it is the story about a man named Eli (played by Denzel Washington, who is also one of the film's producers), who has a book; it is also about the Bible, which in this case seems to provide not a set of beliefs but simply the hope that humanity has a future.

The film plays out in a postapocalyptic wasteland that will look familiar to fans of the Mad Max trilogy. Like the protagonist in those films, Eli must fight off a slew of sleazy killers, thieves and rapists who, like Eli, have survived the nuclear holocaust that occurred 30 years earlier. Eli's mission, given to him by a voice in his head, is to move west with the book, which is supposedly the last copy on Earth. (The other copies were destroyed in anger when religion was blamed for the planet's destruction--a theme the film doesn't explore as deeply as it might.)

The Book of Eli is an old-fashioned western dressed up in postapocalyptic rags. Eli is the "man with one name" who ambles into a backwater burg in search of water and comes face to face with evil in the form of Carnegie (Gary Oldman), who is involved with the blind Claudia (Jennifer Beals) while he pursues Claudia's nubile daughter Solara (Mila Kunis).(There are some allusions here to the biblical story of Herod and his daughter.)

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What Carnegie wants even more than women, however, is a copy of the Bible, since he is old enough to remember how powerful the book can be. He breaks all sorts of commandments in a desperate attempt to get it from Eli.

What makes The Book of Eli a cut above most religiously tinted westerns is the visual style and elan of the Hughes Brothers (the name Albert and Allen Hughes work under), makers of Menace II Society and From Hell. …

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