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A post-apocalyptic western-esque film with an interesting twist
The Book of Eli (DVD)
Member Name: IzzyS
The Book of Eli (DVD)
Advantages: pretty atmospheric/engrossing, prevailing message, satisfying end plot twist
Disadvantages: Somewhat formulaic, plot holes, won't appeal to all/definitely not for sceptics
- Story -
Set in a post-apocalyptic society, Eli is a loner who's spent the last 30 years or so travelling west, shooting birds and other animals and searching for valuables in abandoned buildings to exchange for water (which has become one of the most precious commodities) he has a very important book in his possession and is waiting to find the right place to settle down and share it with the locals. However, he's dismayed by the behaviour of many of the people that he comes across... he has superior fighting skills and this comes to the attention of a local ganglord/gangster called Carnegie in the town Eli is in one day, who offers him a job working for him which he respectfully declines but he agrees to stay overnight. Carnegie insists his lovers daughter, Solara, offer to sleep with him that night to try to persuade him to stay, although again he politely declines and she becomes quite interested in him and his book, which he's careful not to let her get too near to. When Carnegie discovers that Eli is in possession of this book, the one item he had spent so long desperately trying to get, he won't stop until he gets it but Eli manages to escape the town and its not long before Solara joins him, much to Eli's annoyance - this, of course, doesn't go down well and Carnegie and his many thugs chase after them.
Whats so important about this book Eli has? Solara is very naive about the dangers that exist for those who travel, will she be safe? will Carnegie manage to track them down? you'll have to watch the movie to find out.
- Thoughts & Opinions -
This movie starts out with the viewer being left, as it were, in the dark - indeed the movie is very much a dark, gloomy movie and you wonder what the back story is - I was expecting there to be an introductory paragraph, a preface if you will, sort of like the famous one that started Star Wars but there's none, which leaves you to watch the main character, Eli, as he walks about this strange, alien like terrain - everything is in brown, different shades of dark brown. The characters and the terrain somehow reminded me of a comic book in a sense in that it didn't appear very human in a way but then thats obviously part of the aim or even appeal of the movie, its a post-apocolyptic movie, like the Mad Max movies I think (I haven't seen those but I've heard about them).
In some ways this is a very typical action, gun toting movie, there are the quite violent gunfight scenes, infact you could say it resembles a Western in a way, with Eli being the stranger that suddenly appears in a new town, raising eyebrows in the local bar (or should I say saloon) and so on. There's also the token attractive young woman who, when Eli has proven he can defend himself and sets off on his own, insists on comin with him (much to his disdain) and the old tough-as-leather and determined to stop at nothing power-hungry villain, who, it has to be said, looks the part, so yes this is a rather typical example of such a movie in such ways. The difference, to me, in this movie was the story behind the story so to speak, which, of course, slowly unravels as the movie progresses - one or two aspects I had figured out before they were confirmed on screen but not the final twist which left me with quite a wry smile on my face.
I did feel that this movie was redeemed by the overall message, which is quite powerful, although again some might feel that im being naive in saying that - no doubt there are plenty of such apocolyptic movies with probably similar stories but somehow after the first hour or so of this really quite depressing and gloomy movie, realising the message behind the movie about hope and faith, I felt was quite moving somehow (call me a sap). I wouldn't say that this movie works entirely, indeed I've no doubt some people would groan at the thought of Denzel Washington playing some holy figure, he must have some ego trip to believe he'd be who his character is depicted as presumably...this makes me think back to other movies he's done, such as Fallen, which also had quite a strong religious story - I also enjoyed that movie, infact I suppose I should 'confess' (as it were) that I seem to have some sort of fascination with movies that deal with faith, hope, sometimes the supernatural, things like that. I'd be wrong to say that this movie isn't mainly superficial though I suppose, given that yes there's a 'deeper' story behind it but alot of what we actually witness in the movie is violence, dark, depressing desert wilderness/landscape shots and gunfights - hardly uplifting material but the way the movie concludes in the second to last scene I think it is, eh I think it made it worthwhile.
I should say, going back to the negatives, that I couldn't help but feel like there were one or two plot holes (is that a phrase? I think so...) during the movie, yes the viewer isn't told much and its up to us to discover with other characters the motives and background to the story but I did feel doubtful about one or two things which I felt weren't entirely explained. I suppose its easy to say that this movie is over the top in a sense and certainly if you don't like violence then this won't be for you, although I would stress that at least some of the violence is more indicated than graphic, if you know what I mean, again with it having this dark and almost comic book type look/feel to it, you can sometimes only make out the outline of the characters so you don't see a great deal of detail but certainly its still pretty obvious whats going on all the same. Oh and while I remember to mention it, I did have a wry smile on my face when I came across one of the later characters, a good guy who is *get this* English! he's not the bad guy - Brits rejoice lol!. Plus another thing worth mentioning is that there was this comedy element present - its certainly not a comedy movie but one long scene involving an elderly couple in the country living alone in their rather battered old decrepit house is quite comedic - they have a sign out in the garden that says strictly no trespassing however Eli and Solara don't notice it and when they ring the doorbell they fall into a trap and the couple meet them, with the husband again stating they don't want any trespassers, pointing a gun at them, followed by the wife dismissing him and inviting them inside for a nice cup of tea(!) because they don't get many visitors. Inside the house, they have an old gramophone which they use to play an old record called 'Ring My Bell', which is bit poignant and eery to an extent given the series of events which follow. I did find it a little confusing that a gramophone is featured in that scene, yet Eli (who, its indicated in the movie is one of the oldest known 'survivors') has an iPod...I suppose its a stereotype that older people who seemingly live alone in the country prefer an older way of life...hmmm.
I do feel there's a sort of an uncomfortable poignancy in a movie such as this when characters talk about the way things used to be on earth before whatever happened (from the landscapeshots I'd imagine either some sort of nuclear attack or a meteor landed - there's a very large crater shown in one such panoramic shot), talk of how the commodities that are truly precious were never really appreciated 'back then', that people only really cared about chasing after things that weren't really important, that people obsess over material items etc. all of that and seeing how important, how scarce and sought after water appears to be for one, it reminds me of a documentary I once glimpsed at on holiday the other year about how water is in very short supply in some developing countries yet we waste however many thousand litres of it in countries such as our own, which is rather uncomfortable to know - I suppose there is a moral there somewhere. I was just listening to the radio this morning with my family and they were reading out a short fictional story about when oil runs out and the massive impact this has on society - such things do make you think, perhaps some large changes will be heading their way to society - hopefully nothing too apocalyptic though! (mind you with whats going on at Fukushima, it just goes to show, nuclear meltdowns are a possibility).
This isn't the type of movie that would necessarily appeal to me normally as, as much as I do like a decent action movie, all-out action movies or 'mens flicks' or whatever you want to call them, I don't tend to watch after seeing one or two movies like SWAT that bored me silly and made me eye roll quite alot lol but I was interested in seeing this after, I seem to remember, catching the trailer at the cinema last year - the atmosphere and concept was one I haven't seen too often and I was curious about it, so after also seeing a pretty positive review about it on here, I decided to give it a go (pardon the long sentence here *stops for air*). Having finished watching it, I don't regret it, I quite liked the ending and felt it had been a fairly engrossing watch overall, although I don't feel its one I'd want to watch again, knowing the story.
- Would I Recommend it? -
Ehhh im in the middle as far as thats concerned. It just depends, if your sceptical about such movies and/or don't like what could be seen as perhaps a bit of a cheesy sub plot then give this a slightly wide berth (aka I wouldn't bother paying to see it), otherwise I think its worth a watch, though I haven't seen too many similar movies to compare it to, to be fair. I feel that this movie was ultimately redeemed by the message it puts across which is somewhat comforting but others could disagree, it all just depends - im not sure what else I can say, to be honest.
Thanks for reading my review, I hope you found it useful. Thanks for any and all rates and comments - this review was originally posted on Ciao UK.
Summary: A rather dark apocalyptic action movie - its message is its redeeming feature