The Book of Eli

Post-apocalyptic movies are all about how far after the apocalypse you set your story.  Thirty years after “the war tore a hole in the sky”, we’ve got Book of Eli; in Mad Max terms, that puts it into the Beyond Thunderdome epoch, where basically everybody’s on foot and only a few rich fucks have any gasoline left at all.  But whereas Mad Max was over the top and in-your-face, Book of Eli is stripped down to the bare essentials.  The opening sequence is wordless, chilling, gorgeous.  The cinematography is astounding, and the ambient soundtrack pays dividends soundtracks don’t usually pay, at least in this type of movie.  Screenwriter Gary Whitta refers to the movie as his “post-apocalyptic samurai western”; it was his decision to have virtually nothing happen in the first ten minutes, a dynamic which would have derailed a lesser film, while only serving to elevate this one.  Particularly interesting is Whitta’s take on not spelling everything out:

I didn’t want the movie to open up on a nuclear explosion and a text saying,”in the year 2020.” That’s just so lazy and I kind of felt like it would be more interesting rather than laying it all out at the beginning of the film to just spread it out. To have audiences be intrigued by what happened to the world and give them clues to figure it out. This is not a movie that spells everything out and gives all the answers, this gives them a lot of pointers and clues for them to figure it out.

As you might have heard, there is a major twist at the end, and that’s why you shouldn’t talk to anyone about this movie, but instead should get out there and see it.  I won’t say anything more about that, but as to what we learn earlier in the story:  it seems that every review online is talking about how the book that Eli is carrying is a Bible, so I don’t have a problem mentioning that here.  There’s an interesting interview over at io9 with the Hughes Brothers (who directed) where they seem to have trouble defending why it was a Bible, as opposed to (say) a manual on water irrigation—their answers veer toward the patronizing, though even if they weren’t just having a bad day, they wouldn’t be the first artists to not need to consciously engage with the deeper implications of their material in order to create successfully.  But as the evilicious Gary Oldman explains halfway through the movie:  “this isn’t a book . . .it’s a weapon, aimed at the hearts and minds of the weak and desperate. ” In Eli, there’s plenty of both.

4 Responses to “The Book of Eli”

  1. Eric Garland Says:

    America is obsessed with really outrageous apocalyptic films right now because it doesn’t want to imagine a world where we have to pay for Baby Boomer healthcare and pensions. C-SPAN is scarier than anything Hollywood can dream up.

  2. MikeCollins Says:

    I really liked it. Saw it today after closing out a long research trip. I like the samurai esque vibe Eli has and I liked that he’s not perfect. He clearly wrestles with something early in the film. Denzel is great as always and the fights are brutal. Just a good movie. I thought the ending was great if a little telegraphed. The last sequence is pretty great as well.

  3. R. E. Nixon Says:

    Of course I’ll buy it . . . you’re paying attention.

  4. M.S. Williams Says:

    All I can say is I was truly dissapointed by this film on many levels

    but I do appreciate the twist on the “resources”