This sci-fi neo-western by Hughes brothers tells a story of a missionary in the post apocalyptic world, in the not too distant future. The Book of Eli is an enjoyable, action packed movie that delivers.
In the wake of America’s desolation after the nuclear war, Eli (played by Denzel Washington) has been wandering for thirty years, carrying a book he keeps with his own life. Living a humble life, hunting animals and collecting food and belongings left behind in abandoned houses is how he survives, in the age of ecological catastrophe and all the human depravity that grows out of such conditions.
When he arrives in a small town run by the ruthless Carnagie (played by Gary Oldman), Eli clashes with his men but ultimately impresses him so much so that Carnagie asks him to join his gang. He even asks his lover Claudia (played by Jennifer Beals) to send their daughter Solara (played by Mila Kunis) to Elijah. Finding out that Eli guards the last existing copy of the book he wants makes him determined to get it at all costs. Having become powerful by the means of controlling the rare sources of clean water, he dreams of conquering the world. On the other hand, Eli is a man of peace, who effortlessly defeats anyone who tries to get in his way. This contrast between the values this film preaches and the sheer number of violent scenes, is not particularly unique, but it still brutal enough to be entertaining.
Solara accompanies Eli on his travels, and along the way he becomes her spiritual teacher, as she was raised with no concept of God and faith. He tells her about all of the other copies of that book, intentionally destroyed after the war to wipe the past from people’s memories, although according to others the book itself was the cause of the war. Eli says that thirty years ago he was taken to the book by a voice inside, which then urged him to travel west until he found a place where the book would be safe. The voice assured him that he would be protected on his journey to the old Alcatraz prison, where he and Solara eventually find a group of people trying to save what they can from the ancient civilization.
Eli tells the guards that he is carrying a copy of the King James version of the Bible. The printing press in Alcatraz begins to work and the story ends with the first copy of the New Version of the King James Bible on a shelf next to the Torah, the Tanach and the Koran, while Eli thanks God for giving him such an important task, as his meaningful but deeply exhausting life comes to an end.
This film doesn’t lack in action and visuals, but it lacks in the way it presents the central motifs and characters. Final twist was something people either loved or detested, but as entertaining as it is, this movie is completely overshadowed by its own potential.