[Denzel Washington, Gary Oldman, Mila Kunis]
The Vatican voiced their opinion concerning "Avatar" last week. Apparently, the movie is "simple", "sappy" and promotes the worship of the earth and nature - instead of religion. Apparently, the success of James Cameron's film will drive away more and more patrons of the Church. Maybe if the Pope wore big, pointy blue ears, this issue could have been avoided. Luckily for the Vatican, they had great success with "The Passion of the Christ" in recent years to gain sympathy for Catholicism. And now they can add "The Book Of Eli" to their canon of films that serves up the Bible and religion as what will save man.
SYNOPSIS: 30 years after a nuclear war, a lone nomad travels west across north america on a mission to deliver a King James version Bible to an unknown safe place. Unfortunately, a small town tyrant covets the book as well, and will stop at nothing to retrieve it.
The Hughes brothers, best known for "Menace to Society" and "From Hell", offer up their version of a post-apocalypse world and the inhabitants therein. What is the purpose of this entry? To tell the tale of a lone gunslinger, Eli, spurred west on a quest to deliver a Bible to a safe haven, led by only a voice that led him to the book to start with, a destination that even he does not know and a promise of safety from harm. In his way are the typical wasteland scurvy that he dispatches with grace and ease. Also placed in his path is Carnegie, a man who has built a community based on strength of arms, fear, and control of a rationed water supply. But in order to expand, Carnegie desperately needs Eli's Bible to have the "words" to sway even more denizens under his control.
Denzel Washington and Gary Oldman bring their usual caliber of performance to the film. Denzel approaches the character of Eli with a zen-like quality, uttering Bible verses and teachings to those he encounters.He has read from the book every day for 30 years. But in a blasted world, devoid of life and hope, his is more Old Testament wrath then New Testament communion. Gary Oldman plays Carnegie with his expert, understated villiany, masking evil with a higher education.
The landscape is stark and burned out. Its contents filled with the typical post-world corpses, cannibals, marauders and merchants. The cannibals and marauders were better in "Road Warrior", the merchants better in "A Boy and his Dog". My emotional investment better in "The Road" and "I Am Legend". I will say there is humor between Eli and Mila Kunis' Solara, and a couple of well-choreographed, visceral fight scenes with Eli, his oversized blade and some decapitated limbs and heads.
The ending has a neat twist. But the twist raises more questions than it answers. I cannot ask the questions here without giving away any more of the plot. What led Eli on his 30 year journey? What led him to the book? Will the Bible get into the right hands and inspire hope, or fall into the wrong hands and inspire fear? And the greatest question of all... did religion end the world with war, and can it start the world again?