I saw The Book of Eli Friday night.
Wow, this was not what I was expecting! I went in expecting this to be a straight-forward post-apocalyptic action movie, but it was a whole lot more than that.
The basic plot is pretty simple, actually. A wanderer by the name of Eli, played by Denzel Washington, is traveling West. He’s carrying a book, along with his sword, a bow and arrow, a gun and, in a master stroke of product placement, an iPod. He’s a righteous man in a savage world of radiation, destruction and desperate people. And, those most desperate of people come after him, to try and take whatever they can from him, perhaps even to take him for their stew pot. After all, in a world where everything is scarce, meat is meat.
Eli meets several groups of people, from the barely organized savages who try to lure him in with a woman in distress to the much more dangerous roving gangs of bikers. The savages he slices and dices, but the bike gangs turn out to be a “road crew”, of sorts, for a much more organized nasty by the name of Carnegie, played by Gary Oldham. Turns out, he’s looking for a book, a very special book, that he thinks can unite all the locals into a city-state of sorts. A city-state he can franchise over and over and over again.
Eli wanders into this little dictator’s town looking to get his iPod charged up, because, you know, a war ravaged and devistated landscape is no place for a day hike without some portable tunes. The local engineer sets him up, for a pretty good trade in pre-war goods, obviously salvaged, and sends him to the only bar in town for a drink while the iPod charges up. That’s where things get a little dangerous and Eli takes out the road crew who he’d seen on the road. That draws the attention of Carnegie, who “invites” Eli to stay on. When Eli declines, Carnegie insists he stay the night to think about the offer, he sends in Solara, played by Mila Kunis, to try and convince Eli to stay. Of course, in the end, she ends up convincing him to take her with when he leaves.
I won’t give away more of the plot, so as not to ruin the film, but you’ll quickly learn that the mysterious book that Eli carries and Carnegie wants is a Bible. Seems after the war, they were all destroyed. All save this one. And Eli is the last righteous man on Earth, following God’s calling to take the book to the West where he’ll mysteriously know what to do with it and who to give it to.
And, yes, that is where the spirituality of the whole thing ties in. Eli is the most just and upright man in a very savage and essentially Godless world, trying to follow the teachings in the Bible he carries, even as he fights for his own survival. Carnegie represent all that is wrong and venal in a world ruled by baser politics and power and controlling the masses. The dichotomy of these two men make most of the product placement shots rather more ironic than I think may have been intended, but, regardless, it’s a great morality story. And, a great story for modern Christians to consider.
We, too, are in a world that is often far from “God centered” and ruled by baser ideals. Are we going to keep God’s ways? Are we even going to try? Or is our religion just something we do once a week? How faithful are we to what we believe is God’s way? When we hear God’s voice, do we listen?
No, I don’t have the answers, nor does this movie, necessarily, but it does ask the right questions. Or, at least, it provoked them in me. And, yes, it was great to see a spiritual hero who was far from perfect and far from a pushover do his best in a particularly difficult place. There comes a time, when the world is so banal and corrupt that no one else has anything more than base survival on their mind that even the smallest attempt as spirituality is huge.
In short, I loved this movie.
Sure it was pretty violent for the younger folks, but I’d encourage everyone to go see this one, even if you don’t like violence. The themes, especially for Christians, that are brought up and snuck into your thoughts under the cover of an action film are well worth the price of admission. Incidentally, the movie is based on a graphic novel with which I’m only vaguely familiar, and there are some fight scenes that really show the influence of that in their beauty and artistry and coreography. It’s a really well done film with top-shelf actors in it.
It’s a rarity for me, but I would see this again. Hell, I’d even pay full price to see this one again. It was that good.
Really, it may not have the visual impact of Avatar in IMAX 3D, but, I assure you, this is a fantastic film.