Review: The Book of Eli
2.5 stars (out of 5)
By R. Kurt Osenlund
There are some provocative ideas at the heart of “The Book of Eli,” the latest object of Hollywood's seemingly unquenchable affection for doomsday-related fare. Written by first-time scripter Gary Whitta and directed by Albert and Allen Hughes (who haven't made a film since 2001's Jack the Ripper thriller, “From Hell”), this Denzel Washington distress vehicle is powered by the somewhat nifty notion of preserving religion – Christianity, specifically – in a world where civilization has gone to waste. I'm glad the filmmakers at least tried to hit upon something weighty, because the last thing audiences need is a generic walk through yet another post-apocalyptic landscape. But I also would've liked to have seen things handled more delicately, as these gents don't have nearly enough respect for the built-in power of their hefty themes. And this walk, truth be told, is often a crawl, and an ugly one to boot.
At the risk of spoiling one of a few revelations that aren't as wow-inducing as they'd like to be, the titular book is a leather-bound King James Bible – the last surviving Bible on Earth following a 30-year-old global cataclysm that the movie thankfully refrains from over-explaining (there was a war, fire rained down from the sky, yada, yada, yada). Eli (Washington), a drifter of few words and uncanny fighting skills, is the Bible's protector, divinely selected to carry the doorstopper to a western location he can't place, but will know when he sees it. It's to the film's credit that these details aren't immediately divulged but, then again, prior to their unmasking (which I'll estimate starts to unroll after about 30 minutes in), the movie is an empty, dismal bore, and what their inclusion chiefly does is finally give the viewer something to latch onto.