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Laramie Movie Scope:
The Book of Eli

The wandering holy warrior of the Apocalypse

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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January 18, 2010 -- “The Book of Eli” is one of those Apocalyptic action films set in a desolate future desert, but it has some crucial differences over most of the other films that share this overworked old genre which dates back more than 60 years. There have been about half a dozen of these Apocalyptic films in the past year alone. In one, zombies rule the world (“Zombieland”). In another, vampires rule the world (“Daybreakers”). These are common themes in Apocalyptic films. Most Apocalyptic films have nothing to do with religion, even though the term Apocalyptic itself is religious in origin. Most of these films are populated by anti-heroes, not heroes. This film is an exception to the above rules and trends. It has a hero, Eli (played by Denzel Washington of “The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3”), as its main character and religion is an important part of the plot.

Eli is a lone warrior who has been wandering in the desert for 30 years (sound familiar?). He has in his pack a book, the rarest and most powerful book in the world, a King James Bible. Many men have tried to rob him of this possession, but none survived the attempt. Eli is a warrior of unsurpassed skill with a bow and arrow, a sword, or a gun. He also seems to be incredibly lucky. No matter the odds in a fight, no one can touch him. Eli is a rare survivor of an event referred to as “the flash” which blinded and killed most of humanity. Christianity was blamed for the flash, so all Bibles were destroyed by the survivors. Eli is on a quest to find a place in the west where his Bible will be safe.

Cat haters will love the opening scene where Eli kills and eats a cat. I imagine cat lovers will not like this. He also feeds a mouse a bit of cat meat in a later scene, just to rub it in. Eli finally meets his match when he runs into the dictator of a small desert town, Carnegie (Gary Oldman of “The Dark Knight”). Carnegie wants Eli's book, because he knows its power to control people. The battle between Carnegie and Eli lasts most of the film. Among those caught up in this power struggle are Carnegie's main squeeze, Claudia (Jennifer Beals of “Runaway Jury”) and her daughter, Solara (Mila Kunis of “Extract”). Also in the mix is Carnegie's top enforcer, Redridge (Ray Stevenson of “Cirque du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant”). While the film is slow-moving and predictable up to a point, the acting is good. There is a plot twist at the end which puts an interesting spin on the rest of the film.

I won't reveal the ending of the film here, except to say there is a big surprise at the end which is unbelievable in terms of this being a realistic film. One would have to invoke supernatural influences to make it believable, and that is pretty much what is being invoked. Eli is literally on a mission from God, and God seems to be helping him. I have to agree with Variety magazine's assessment of this film: If the studio wanted to market this film specifically to Christians it might just work. Evangelical Christians, in particular, represent a lost audience for Hollywood, with few exceptions. This is a film that could attract that audience. If audiences can buy into vampires, zombies and blue-skinned aliens, why not God? This film rates a B.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in digital formats, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2010 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)