FILM RATING: 3.5 stars
One of the most stunning stylistic movies I’ve seen in years is The Book of Eli (2010), Denzel Washington’s recent post-apocalyptic genre addition. Directors (and brothers) Albert and Allen Hughes have created one of the better films in this popular Hollywood genre, and clearly left their mark as talented filmmakers all over it. The loosely defined apocalypse genre is hard to categorize. It’s usually a bit sci-fi, drama, thriller, and action. You’ve got films like The Terminator (1984), Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991), and Twelve Monkeys (1995) that are mostly set in the time BEFORE the apocalyptic event they are about takes place. These films are about the attempt to prevent the apocalypse from happening. Then you’ve got the films that are basically set DURING the apocalyptic event, like Deep Impact (1998), Armageddon (1998), and The Seventh Sign (1988), where everyone’s efforts to prevent the disaster ultimately fail. And finally you have films set AFTER the apocalyptic event where it’s all about the survival in this new reality, like Waterworld (1995), The Postman (1997), The Matrix (1999), Planet of the Apes (1968), and The Road (2009). The Book of Eli fits into the latter category of movies after the apocalypse, where people are forced to deal with a new, usually dark and twisted, world.
Set in what is assumed to be the desert Southwest of the United States, The Book of Eli is a pretty simple story about a man named Eli whose sole purpose in life is to guard one of the last books left in the world and take it on its journey to its final destination, revealed through the course of the movie. After the apocalypse, there was a manic fever of book burning and destruction that basically rid the world of books and literacy, all in an attempt to control the remaining people who survived whatever happened to cause this apocalypse. The film doesn’t go in to the cause of this new post-apocalyptic world, but instead focuses on how society keeps its shared historical knowledge alive in the context of complete brutal survival.
I recently saw The Book of Eli for the first time in HD on HBO. What a stellar presentation I must say! I’m wishing now that I had seen the film in the theater on the big screen. The Book of Eli is absolutely fantastic looking! The cinematography, production design, costumes, and make-up are really well designed and executed. My friend Siobhan Roome was a part of the Art Department for the film as a set designer, and she did her job very well…along with the rest of the art department team. Production Designer Gae S. Buckley and The Hughes Brothers gave this film a look and feel like no other and executed their vision with incredible craftsmanship.
Director of Photography Don Burgess really showed off his talents with the cinematography as well. There were a few shots that simply blew my mind with their composition and camera movement. There’s one shot in particular that made me pause and rewind because I just hadn’t seen it before. It’s a 90-degree rotated pan with the horizon running vertically within the widescreen presentation. I wish I had a shot of it to share, but its better to see it the context of the film anyways. The gritty gray, black, yellow, and brown tones of the film perfectly reflect the barren desert topography and apocalyptic atmosphere that the story is telling. Burgess and The Hughes Brothers really gave The Book of Eli visuals that I’ll never forget and compare every future movie within this genre against.
The original music for The Book of Eli by music composer Atticus Ross is really well-suited to the story and an excellent listen all on its own. I’ve listened to the soundtrack on its own several times since watching the movie. My favorite track is “Panoramic” and it’s “Eaten By Earth” remix. Along with his work on The Social Network (2010), Ross had an incredible year in 2010. Now that I know that Ross was behind the music from the short-lived USA Network TV show Touching Evil (2004), which I thought was an awesome show unfairly cancelled, I’m even more enamored with him. I clearly remember the feeling of the haunting music from that show. And apparently Ross got his start in the business with that series. Ross has a very modern style in his sound that feels fresh and exciting. I’m really looking forward to his future work on David Fincher’s upcoming remake of The Girl With The Dragon Tatoo (2011). He’s been re-paired with Trent Reznor from The Social Network soundtrack, so the sound should be interesting to say the least.
The plot and story of The Book of Eli was good. Like I said, it’s a simple story, but well-executed by actors Denzel Washington, Gary Oldman, Mila Kunis and the rest of the supporting cast. Nobody’s acting really stood out as superior within their careers, but they were all solid performances that served the story of the film. Oldman felt a bit like he was re-hashing his bad guy role from Air Force One (1997), but he is good playing a bad guy, especially with his heavily textured face. There were a few times during the film that I felt the pacing and plot weren’t going anywhere and were just filling time. I think the film could’ve benefitted from a little more complexity in its plot and more focus on developing the emotional depth of the characters and how they got to where they are personally. Maybe more back story about their lives was needed. That being said, I still felt like there was enough depth to this story that it satisfied me. And combined with the amazing look and style of everything, I’m very much compelled to watch the film again on Blu-ray.
I’m not going to give away the story, but I like the twist ending. I did not see it coming (no pun intended for those that have seen the film). But it worked for me even though I knew going in to the film what book Eli is protecting. I give The Book of Eli 3.5 stars out of 5. It’s a very good movie that surprised me and gave me a very satisfying experience. One of the better films of 2010. The Hughes Brothers are talented directors that have their own unique vision as filmmakers and its pleasing to see them express it through their films. I’ll definitely be curious to see what they do next.