Sigh... I was really disappointed by this movie. I didn't expect much going in — I hardly even knew what the movie was about. But as it progressed, I got hope, thinking that maybe, just maybe, this movie could accomplish something spectacular. Unfortunately, it never did. But hey, it's January, and almost every movie is like this. Most of them look cool and interesting, but end up either being mediocre or just plain bad. The Book of Eli's not bad, but it's certainly not very good either.
The movie is set in a post-apocalyptic world, where something has happened to make the world barren, deserted, and an all-around shitty place to live. There are long stretches of sand and roads that haven't been used in years. "Hijackers" sneak around through the rubble, stealing travelers' food and water, and raping helpless women. There are a few cities that are home to survivors, but for the most part, the world's just gone to shit and it'll be a while before humanity can rebuild itself. The movie focuses on Eli, played by Denzel Washington, a survivor who is traveling to "the west" on some sort of important unnamed mission. However, he finds himself dettered from said mission when he stops in a small town that is basically ruled and run by a guy named Carnegie, played by Gary Oldman. Carnegie is interested in a book that Eli is taking with him. It's revealed what the book is about forty minutes into the movie, and it's pretty obvious to anyone with a couple of brain cells what the book is as soon as it's brought up, but I'll still try not to spoil it for those of you who haven't seen the movie yet. Anyway, Carnegie tries to get the book from Eli, who leaves the town and continues heading west. Thus a chase ensues, and, well...that's pretty much the entire summary of the movie right there, minus the ending.
The problem with this movie is the story. Now, I absolutely love the premise and basic plotline, but I think it was executed poorly in this movie. It's a little too long, there's plenty of scenes that don't need to be in the movie, there's several plotholes — I could on and on about the problems with the story, but what it all boils down too is that it's just plain boring at parts, and too damn long. If I were to remake and direct this movie, there are a couple things I would change. First of all, I'd get rid of all the action. Granted, the action in this movie was badass and very well-shot, but it was gratuitous and served no real purpose other than to draw in unwitting moviegoers who thought they were going to see an action movie. There's maybe about five minutes of action in this movie, and even that was too much. The movie was trying to go for a serious tone throughout ninety percent of it, and the action didn't suit that tone. The second thing I would do would be to add a flashback or two of what Eli was like before God shat on the world. Now, maybe someone more creative than me could figure out a better way to expand on Eli's character than by use of the clichéd and hackneyed technique of flashbacks, but the bottom line is that I wanted to know more about this character. The actual thing that caused the apocalypse is only discussed in very vague terms, and that was fine to me. I didn't care that much about that aspect of the story, but what I did care about is the character Eli, who I found very intriguing. Denzel does such a great job playing him that I couldn't help but want to know more about him.
Aside from the poor execution and direction by Albert and Allen Hughes, everything else about this movie was golden. The acting by Denzel, Oldman, and Mila Kunis, who played Carnegie's daughter, Solaris, is fantastic. The only problem is the mediocre material they're given. The script itself isn't bad, it just never allows them to show much emotional range, with the exception of Oldman, whose performance I found to be the most gripping and haunting in the movie. I'm actually kind of creeping myself out right now just thinking about him. He plays such a vile, twisted human being, but he never becomes over-the-top or cliché; it's a great performance, and a great villain too. Denzel is perfect as Eli as well, but the only reason his performance didn't stand out as much as Oldman's is because of what they did with the character — or rather what they didn't do with the character. Still, he's fantastic. His presence alone gives you the sense that you don't want to fuck with this guy, but he can also turn it around and play a mellower, more human character realistically.
The other truly distinctive thing about this movie is the cinematography. The visuals are gorgeous, as they usually are in post-apocalyptic movies. The landscape itself isn't much different from other post-apocalyptic flicks, and the filmmakers didn't inject any interesting new ideas or twists into the apocalypse. It was just your standard barren, bleak, and depressing landscape, but it looked great regardless.
The movie also has a definite religious message; as a matter of fact, I think I've still got marks on my head from where the sledgehammer hit me. But honestly, as a Christian, I didn't mind it — I actually really liked it. I realize that to non-Christians, the movie might seem like it's excluding them or disregarding their beliefs, and...you know, I can't really say that it isn't. But I don't care about that. As a Christian, I really appreciated the message of the movie. If non-Christians hate this movie because of its religious message, I'm not going to argue with them or say that they're wrong. I just happen to be the target audience of the movie, and as that target audience, I found the overall idea and message behind the movie to be uplifting and inspiring. It's the idea behind the movie that makes me think that this film could have been amazing. Maybe not for everyone, but based on my beliefs and general standards for a good movie, I could have loved this movie. I'm getting depressed just thinking about how great it could have been.
This movie is by no means bad. Like I said, it has a ton of things going for it, but it's those goddamn directors that ruined it. Or maybe it was the writer. Ah, who the fuck cares? All I know is that I was sorely disappointed by this movie, but I'll probably have completely forgotten about it by the time Inception comes out later this year. Now there's a movie that'll really blow me away.