End of the world as we know it/post-apocalyptic cinema is all the rage these days and The Book of Eli is the latest addition to this genre. As post-apocalypse fare, it is a pretty entertaining flick. Then again, it stars charismatic Denzel Washington who is as usual a lot of fun to watch. This time he is Eli, a lone traveler in a color-drained world some 30 years after a nuclear blast scorched the earth. He is in possession of the last known copy of the King James Bible and is on a mission from God to deliver it to the west coast. But don’t expect him to be a pacifist monk. He is a sword wielding killing machine – but only slays evil people who get in his way, of course.
His nemesis Carnegie is played by the best villainous actor out there, Gary Oldman. As the strongman boss of a western town, he has his motorcycle minions out searching the countryside for books, hoping to get his hands on this last Bible on earth because it has the power to make people do anything, if you tell them it is in the book. Apparently, the good book is said to be to blame for the war that brought the world to this place, and that is why all the copies except Eli’s were burned after the firestorm.
Since Eli’s mission to the west coast leads him through this nameless town, he’s forced to contend with Carnegie’s army and meets up with Solana (Mila Kunis), the sweet and beautiful daughter of Carnegie’s wife (Jennifer “Flash Dance” Beals). When Carnegie’s attempts to get the book from Eli fail, Solana takes to the road with him with the evil ones in hot pursuit.
The Book of Eli is beautifully shot with the subtlety of color giving it just the right tone. Denzel is wonderful as Eli, the good guy who you’d hate to go up against in a dark alley if you’d done something wrong. There are some flashes of comedy that make him more human and the film less grim, but there is not a lot of gray area in this movie; everything is on one side or the other, and somehow it works, as long as you take the religious angle with a huge grain of salt. The ending has a twist that you don’t see coming and makes you think back over the film for the clues you missed. Less depressing than The Road and not as silly as 2012, The Book of Eli isn’t deep, but it is entertaining.