Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

I had blown off the critics screening of ĎThe Book of Elií, the first film by Detroitís own Hughes Brothers in nearly a decade, because a group of friends wanted to check it out and then make an evening of it by having dinner afterwards. And, as Iíve said before, sitting in a room filled with pompous, self important film critics is one of the most unpleasant experiences you would ever have to go through. Anyway I decided to check out a few reviews to see what some of these critics had to say about this movie. Big Mistake. Of the few reviews I had read almost all of them pointed to a big twist at the end, just like Iím doing right now. They didnít tell you what this twist was but they did bring it up. The problem with this as it relates to me is that when I went to see this movie Iím looking for what this Ďtwistí might be. Instead of concentrating on the movie Iím looking for clues. As it turns out I think that might have figured this twist out early and now Iím impatient to get to the end to see if Iím right. I was, but not because Iím all that bright which Iím not. If I had just minded my own damn business and not read another mans words thereís no way I wouldíve figured this out because I wouldnít have been looking for it so hard. Damn. Still, distractions aside, ĎThe Book of Elií is a damn good movie.

Thirty years ago there was Ďthe flashí. Only a few denizens on the Planet Earth survived this flash as our planet now looks like a dried out version of a Sergio Leone movie. We spend our time on this desolate, violent new Earth with Eli (Denzel Washington), a man, who like the Blues Brothers many years before, is on a mission from God. Eli has in his possession a book, a book so precious and valuable that he guards it with his very life. On his path westward, where his faith has told him to go, he meets many individuals who wish to separate Eli from his belongings and though Eli begs these individuals to leave him be, he and his trusty blade usually ends up separating these individuals from life.

On his journey Eli stops into a town looking for supplies, a town run by an evil power hungry dude named Carnegie (Gary Oldman) who happens to be scouring the plains searching the very book that Eli possesses. Carnegie wants the book, a book which he feels holds the key to his world domination plans, but Eli isnít letting the book go. Along the way Eli picks up a young charge named Solara (Mila Kunis) and together the pair must do what they can to save this book while Carnegie and his squad of bad men are in hot pursuit. Cannibalism, beheadings, scripture quotes and the occasional rape party shall ensue.

Thereís a lot going on in ĎThe Book of Elií aside from the quick burst of sudden and brutal violence, though there is plenty of that. There are a lot of metaphoric references to many instances in the bible as the characters we run across and the situations that these characters will encounter raise many issues that could initiate some solid discussions if you were to see this film with a group as I did. But letís put all of that to the side as there are a large number of people out there who are not familiar with the bible outside of ĎIn the beginning God created the Heaven and EarthÖí and are only interested to know if the movie is worth seeing. Thatís from Genesis 1:1 for you hell bound heathens out there.

Now to that end, at least in my humble opinion, ĎThe Book of Elií is definitely worth seeing. It is worth seeing just to watch Denzel Washington inhabit the body of Eli the ex K-mart employee. Note we had some debate about that as well. Not surprisingly Denzel, if we may respectfully call him Denzel, brings depth, texture and a spirit to the character of Eli, a man who will have no name for the majority of the film, and Denzel Washington has pulled off a task that I imagine few actors possess the ability to accomplish. Agreeing with Eliís methods may be up for some debate but Washington makes Eliís mission behind these methods seem most noble. The washed out sepia toned look of the film seems to fit the landscape that we are inhabiting perfectly, the world of Mad Max gone terribly wrong, not like there was a lot that was right with Mad Maxís world in the first place. And there is plenty of violent action and bloodshed for those who like that kind of thing, and we know you are out there.

There were times that the movie felt erratic in its pacing featuring stretches of long quiet moments of solitude suddenly interrupted by Denzel Washington doing his Zotoichi thing, Gary Oldman brings as much personality and venom as humanly possible to an off the shelf overlord bad guy and Mila Kunis brings a lot of spunk to her character which we know the minute we meet her exists mainly to serve the purpose of eventually getting caught or captured in someway forcing our hero to make some kind of decision or another to rescue her. And we have a Jennifer Beals sighting who rumor has it is aging, though we see hardly any evidence of this. Almost makes me want to watch ĎThe L-Wordí. Weíll still take a pass on that though.

ĎThe Book of Elií is a fine film and an engaging film which begs me to ask the question why itís taken this long for twins Allen and Albert Hughes to make another movie. I mean they havenít made a bad one yet with ĎMenace 2 Societyí still being amongst my top ten movies of all time. If I actually had a list like that, which I donít.

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