Saturday, 7 May 2016

Book of Eli

Directed by American brothers Albert and Allen Hughes, whose From Hell (2001) was a very worthwhile adaptation of the graphic novel From Hell by Alan Moore, THE BOOK OF ELI (2010) is a post–apocalypse epic, one that compares grandly and favourably to the utterly pretentious wank of John Hillcoat’s The Road (2009).  

Denzel Washington portrays the titular character as a symbolic smidgen of hope, albeit in a form of religious dogma, for all that remains of humanity after WW3. Our stoic hero is a stone cold warrior of the wastelands, either slicing ‘n’ dicing or shooting up unwary ambushers and he’s extraordinarily capable, as a samurai/ gunslinger in this doomsday western scenario of a  scorched landscape where raggedy inhabitants pray for rain, beg for justice, and expect painful deaths. “This is a civilised town. We don’t eat humans.” Amen.

Eli’s a long walker, heading west on a hard trek through the wraparound greyed–out colour scheme of nuclear winter. A ruined and rebuilt town can recharge his MP3 player in trade (lip–balm or shampoo is preferred currency), but the tumbledown place is run by tyrant Carnegie (Gary Oldman), who really, really seriously wants a bible as the ultimate weapon of salvation, and Eli just happens to own last surviving copy of the King James version. Differing perceptions of biblical values serve to remind us of Arthur C. Clarke’s assertion that perhaps greatest tragedy in history is that morality was hijacked by religion...

Carnegie’s concubine, the born–blind Claudia (Jennifer Beals), might be the only liberal conscience alive, concerned for the welfare of a daughter, Solara (Mila Kunis), pimped out by Carnegie as a recruitment ‘favour’ to Eli, but rejected by the spiritual champion. Of course, wicked Carnegie wangles that magic book from honourable Eli’s possession yet - since Claudia has forgotten how to read Braille - Carnegie is left alone to preside over ill–fated pandemonium.

Along unhappy trails, Eli and Solara meet amusingly potty couple, George and Martha (Michael Gambon and Frances de la Tour), who are like cranky old survivalist cousins of the Bloggs from animated feature When The Wind Blows (1986). After reaching the Golden Gate Bridge, the badly wounded Eli meets Alcatraz’s archive curator (Malcolm McDowell) who transcribes and prints a new bible edition. Although he is, eventually, revealed as a blind prophet (a “darkness on the face of the deep”), Eli ends up as the people’s hero, making The Book Of Eli a new Mad Max for 21st century... until George Miller’s excellent actioner Fury Road appeared to reclaim that territory.


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