Book of Eli

There isn’t a biblical book of Eli, so the Hughes brothers decided to create one.

There isn’t a biblical book of Eli, so the Hughes brothers decided to create one.

Denzel Washington is what the other characters call a Walker. It’s been thirty years since the Great War was ended by the Flash, and I don’t mean the DC comic book hero, one of the few major characters who hasn’t gotten a movie of his own yet — though rumor has it they’ll fix that little oversight next year. Anyway, this Flash blinded a fair number of people, so it sounds like the burst of light from a nuclear bomb, or maybe lots of bombs, since it seems to have affected so many. And even thirty years later, if you go outside without your Ray-Bans, you’ll come back without your retinas. The whole world seems to have been baked until it looks like New Mexico — and I’m not trying to make fun of New Mexico; that’s just where they did a lot of the location shooting.

Denzel is heading west, because he has to. It’s his destiny, he feels, and his mantra is that he must not stray from the path. That path, however, gets pretty rocky when he encounters Carnegie (Gary Oldman, the voice of General Grawl in Planet 51, and Sirius Black from Harry Potter), the absolute ruler of a small town, filled with refugees from the road. It’s like an Old West town — everyone important has a gun, there are shootouts in the street, and life revolves around the saloon, where Carnegie holds court and keeps his ‘soldiers’ loyal with alcohol and women. Carnegie, you see, is obsessed with books. Actually one book in particular, but he sends his troops out to grab every book they can in hopes of finding the one he’s after. It’s difficult on the troops, though, since most copies of the book their boss wants were burned, and basically no one under thirty-five can read. Clearly, this is a Horrible Place to Live. The only bright spot is that no one under thirty-five knows what a television is, either, so at least the terrible legacy of those reality shows is gone.

You can see this coming — the very book that Carnegie wants so desperately (we all know what book it is, but we’ll pretend and not say the name) is the one book that Denzel is carrying with him. Granted, Gary Oldman can be intimidating — he once played the vampire, Dracula himself, after all — but when it comes down to him versus Denzel, all bets are off. As Carnegie’s long-suffering companion, Claudia (Jennifer Beals, most recently of the TV series “Lie to Me”) says, “You won’t be able to make him do what you want him to do.” Claudia is blind, but not from the Flash — she was born that way, which she also says makes her lucky, in a way, since at least she was always used to it.

The lovely Claudia has a lovely daughter, Solara (Mila Kunis, from Max Payne — thankfully, now that she’s made this movie, I won’t have to mention that awful thing again), who, unsurprisingly, hates it in that town. Carnegie’s head thug, Redridge (Ray Stevenson — look for him as mighty Norse warrior Volstagg in the upcoming Thor flick), is all over her when she doesn’t want him to be, and Carnegie thoughtfully sends her to seduce Denzel, thinking that will make him stay. This, of course, is completely the wrong way to approach Denzel, but try telling him that.

Then all the fighting breaks out. Every surviving gun on the planet seems to have ended up in this one spot, including an old-style gatling gun. I wasn’t sure I was right in guessing that, but they mentioned a gatling gun operator in the credits, so that must be it. It really tears through wood, whatever it is, though to be fair, it’s obviously very old wood and probably not very well cared for. Which reminds me — I couldn’t figure out why people kept walking and driving over bridges that had literally been through a war and left to crumble for three decades, and then seemed surprised when they reached the point where said bridge actually had crumbled and they couldn’t go any further.

Anyway. I’ll go with four idols. It could be described as your standard chase movie, but it never quite becomes predictable; and yes, there are some questionable bits in the plot that I’m still pondering. But hey, filmmakers want people to ponder their movies, right? Denzel is his usual shining self, of course, and though Gary Oldman goes way, way over the top sometimes, that’s just what Carnegie’s like, and the performances overall are solid to excellent. Tom Waits (inventor extraordinaire Doc Heller from Mystery Men) is the Engineer — he seems to have no other name — and there are a couple of other quite famous faces you’ll recognize in minor roles, including one uncredited one, but I won’t mention them and spoil the surprise. Now I’m off to go find a safe place to hide my books when the apocalypse comes.

Originally posted 1/2010. I really need to rewatch this while knowing the twist from the beginning.