For this month’s next review for Genre Grandeur – Western Crossover Movies, here’s a review of The Book of Eli (2010) by SG of Rhyme and Reason
Thanks again to Kira of Film and TV 101 for choosing this month’s genre.
Next month’s Genre has been chosen by Ashleigh of The Movie Oracle and it is Spoof/Parody Movies.
Please get me your submissions by the 25th of November by sending them to firstname.lastname@example.org
Try to think out of the box! Great choice Ashleigh!
Let’s see what SG thought of this movie:
The Book of Eli (2010)
The world is violent, evil, silent
Toward offenses once taboo,
And those who see are quick to flee
From lies that most consider true.
To change this underworld, I wonder
What is best for us to do,
Intervene and die unseen
Or kill our qualms and hide from view?
The world has rarely treated fairly
Those who contradict its view,
And yet who knows what dominoes
Fall from the scruples of the few.
MPAA rating: R
Since Wikipedia describes The Book of Eli as “a post-apocalyptic neo-Western action film,” I think it qualifies for this month’s Western-inspired Genre Grandeur. After all, how many westerns have a roaming gunman with uncanny aim who wanders into a desert town and fights adversaries with an uncanny lack of aim? Honestly, I don’t know how many, but The Book of Eli fits that mold, just set in a sun-bleached dystopia with Denzel Washington as the wandering hero who carries a rare Bible across the land.
What makes The Book of Eli so unusual is that it seems to be at once a gritty, violent actioner and a faith-based film, combining two genres that would appear to be at odds. The title character drops Bible verses and prays earnestly, and then kills the snot out of wasteland maniacs. It’s an odd and daring choice on the part of writer Gary Whitta and the directing Hughes brothers, especially because the faith community was unlikely to turn out for an R-rated “neo-Western.”
As a Christian, I appreciated the faith elements of the story. Set decades after some mysterious solar disaster scorched the earth’s surface, an entire generation has grown up without any knowledge of the Bible or its teachings, and only the older survivors like Eli or ruthless town heavyweight Carnegie (Gary Oldman) know how important it once was. Their conflicting ideas on how to use it carry some insight into how the Bible has been used in centuries past, as both a beacon of hope or a means to control others. The film’s apocalyptic setting also allows us to see things I take for granted, like grace before meals, in a unique light, since such practices are now foreign in this godless world.
No surprise, I found it too violent at times for my taste, but there’s plenty of style to appreciate, from the nearly black-and-white aspect of outdoor scenes to the polished action choreography of the knife and gun battles. One scene that was a genuine marvel to enjoy zoomed throughout a vicious firefight in a way that made it look like one continuous, scenery-chewing shot. While the performances of Oldman and Mila Kunis serve the story well enough, Denzel Washington turns in a no-nonsense performance that’s stoic, resilient, and still appreciably human, as evidenced by his musical tastes. (Apparently, iPods will still work after the world ends. Yay!)
By the end, the story goes for a twist that may stretch plausibility, but with everything that comes before, maybe the point is for it to stretch one’s faith too. The Book of Eli‘s setting may not be all that different from other post-apocalyptic wastelands, but there are elements here that are curious for the genre, particularly a sympathy for belief in the midst of “the valley of the shadow of death.” Eli is a man on a mission from God, and his earnestness and growth are welcome reminders that when all the world goes insane, one moral man can keep the faith and preserve what once was good.
Best line: (Eli) “In all these years I’ve been carrying it and reading it every day, I got so caught up in keeping it safe that I forgot to live by what I learned from it.”
Rank: List Runner-Up
© 2017 S.G. Liput
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