The Book of Eli
(MA) Denzel Washington, Gary Oldman, Mila Kunis
Not wanting to give it away, but the tome of the title isn’t too hard to guess. Especially when it has a crucifix on the cover.
As Eli (Denzel Washington) drifts across the USA three decades after it has been reduced to rubble by cataclysmic warfare and human stupidity, he guards a book which may hold the key to the world’s rebirth.
Christian themes and imagery are often employed within movie tales of apocalyptic survival, struggle and starting over. Indeed, during the past few years, Children Of Men, The Mist, Knowing, Terminator Salvation, 2012 and their future-destroying ilk have manipulated or loosely referenced Old and New Testament teachings as part of their prophecies for the popcorn crowd.
In January, The Road weaved abstract faith and self-sacrifice into a bleak but absorbing study of a father and son battling to stay alive in wasteland America.
The Book Of Eli is an attempt to turn the grim intellectualism of The Road into a sci-fi western blockbuster complete with some bloody slow-mo fights.
Ambition falls short, though, because the inclusion of “religious” subtext is superficial. Discussions about the book’s power to restore humanity’s hope and purpose and how some wish to abuse it for evil intentions simply becomes bad movie dialogue, instead of deep food-for-thought.
Having an action hero doing God’s work sounds like an excellent opportunity to inspire people who may not normally consider such activities. But, despite not treating “the book” or its meaning with contempt, The Book Of Eli pulls back on being instructive about how we should promote and protect The Word.
Considering how amazing it is that this particular book and its importance are central to a Hollywood blockbuster, The Book Of Eli back pedals notably during a conclusion that makes a late concession to pluralism.
Ben McEachen is the Reviews Editor of Empire Magazine and attends Christians in the Media Church, Annandale.