Thursday, July 8, 2010

The Book of Eli

"The Book of Eli" (The Hughes Brothers, 2010) Eli (Denzel Washington) trudges through a sepia-toned crater-strewn post-apocalypse in slow motion.  He's been walking for 30 years, heading West, compelled by voices that a path will be made for him.  He should fear no Evil.

Probably because he's the biggest bad-ass in the Valley of Death.

Not exactly chapter and verse of lines he says in the movie, but you get the point:  we're talking about a religious-themed apocalypse story, more than a mere Christ-allegory, ala "I Am Legend."  And the way the Hughes Brothers have put it together, they're making a western of the "Shane" variety, but it could also be "Mad Max" (they're similar, especially "The Road Warrior"), another legendary loaner who must make his way being civilized after civilization has crumbled, like so many over-passes, into rubble.

Now, before we get too far, let us just say that, given what we see in the first five minutes of the film, its ultimate revelation is impossible, maybe the Hughes Bros. thought we'd forget or didn't care, but it's stretching things quite a bit.  I could speculate (and give things away) but maybe it's merely sufficient to say that in the scheme of things, you have to take it on Faith, because "The Book of Eli" is all about Faith.  Faith is what drives Eli, he is suffused with it.  He has been assured by the voice that a path will be made for him and all will be provided.

He's pretty lucky in that regard.  He manages to find potable water and to recharge his I-pod filled with classic rock* (It's all classic rock at this point in time!), and he's particular about weapons, bullets being hard to come by in a land where "one man's garbage is another man's treasure."  When he chooses to fight (and he chooses not to a couple of times in the film, choosing, rather, to "stay on the path" than help the victims of an attack), it is with particularly nasty looking long knives—Kukri machetes (I love the Internet)—as well as bows, rifles, pistols (and probably boomerangs if he was in Mad Max's apocalypse), all aimed and fired with deadly accuracy.

So, he's not your typical man of Faith, using it like a weapon.  Eli takes his place in the long line of men (and women) with no, or only one, name who have tumbled through the landscape of westerly-headed movies.  The Hughes Brother owe a large debt to Sergio Leone for this one (and present the receipt by having one of the characters whistle "Cockeye's Theme" from "Once Upon a Time in America"), but also to John Ford, in an excquisitely composed showdown with the player on the other side who also uses Faith as a weapon, a town-kingpin named Carnegie (played with a Jim Jones quivering fervor by Gary Oldman), who, as in history, has this "thing" about books...and one book in particular that he can use to consolidate his power...three guesses what it is (and I'll be saving the other two for next time). 
But, it's a good respectable movie, although well-telegraphed, and forming a kind of post-apocalyptic "greatest nuclear hits" in one movie, with its "Wild West" motifs fitting like a lead-lined glove.  Not a bad movie to watch in the shelter, really.  

* Another "take-it-on-Faith" detail.  Hate to tell you this, kids, but a nuclear pulse will erase all your mp3's, no matter how long you've been collecting.  They're right when they say a nuclear war can ruin your whole day.


The Mad Hatter said...

Yeah...I liked this one too. Which is weird since I totally expected it to be twenty kinds of dumb (if you're interested, we discussed it on episode five of my podcast!).

I did get a huge laugh at the fact that the catalyst for all his troubles was stopping in a town to recharge his iPod. I'll give that one points for originality, but probably deduct twice as many points for it being the dumbest reason for a stranger in a strange town to find himself getting in trouble.

I mean really, when he was getting hassled, why didn't he just say "C'mon guys, I'm just waiting for my iPod to charge".

Did really like the look of this thing though - Hughes Bros really put that Red Cam to good use!

Simon said...

This is one of few instances I'll forgive the Rob Zombie dirty-cam thing. Very entertaining, at least.