Monday, July 26, 2010

The Book of Eli

It seems like the older I get, the less I care for post-apocalyptic novels and movies. There are plenty of good ones, of course, including some of the classics of the genre, but my tolerance for worldwide grimness and bleakness seems to be dwindling. Because of this tendency, I was hoping that I’d like THE BOOK OF ELI, but it wouldn’t have surprised me all that much if I didn’t.

As it starts out, the movie certainly has “grim and bleak” down. Denzel Washington is a “walker”, somebody who wanders the mostly deserted highways of an America all but destroyed by a war of some sort. It’s never really explained what happened, but civilization has disappeared for the most part and survival is a matter of kill or be killed. Since Washington’s character Eli has lived for thirty years after the disaster that changed the world, he’s gotten really good at killing.

He wanders into what remains of a town that’s ruled by a local tyrant played by Gary Oldman with his usual lip-smacking evil. His main henchman is Ray Stevenson, who was so good as Titus Pullo in ROME. The always appealing Mila Kunis is on hand, too, as a young woman who wants to get away from the town.

Oldman’s character has been searching for a particular book, and it just so happens that Eli has the only copy still in existence. (No points for guessing what the book is. It’s pretty obvious right from the start.) When Oldman finds out that Eli has the book, he tries to take it, but Eli gets away. Kunis’s character goes on the run with him. From there, the rest of the movie is mostly chases and fight scenes.

It took me a while to warm up to this film with all its bloody nihilism and eye-straining sepia-toned photography. But I wound up getting involved in the story, and Washington, Kunis, and Stevenson are all very good in it. The action scenes are staged so that you can tell what’s going on, at least most of the time, and the ending is pretty satisfying. It’s certainly not a feel-good movie, but I think it’s well worth watching. And it’s kind of gotten me in the mood for something else post-apocalyptic, so we’ll see if anything develops from that.


Ron Scheer said...

Did you ever see THE WORLD THE FLESH AND THE DEVIL (1959) with Harry Belafonte?

James Reasoner said...

Yeah, I've seen THE WORLD, THE FLESH, AND THE DEVIL several times, but it's been many years since I last watched it. I remember liking it a lot, though.

Graham Powell said...

No points for guessing what the book is. It’s pretty obvious right from the start.

The Necronomicon?

Charles Gramlich said...

I liked the movie pretty well. The ending reminded me a lot of Fahrenheit 451. Kind of a similar idea.

Frank Loose said...

I recently watched THE ROAD. I do not think it comes anywhere close to capturing the vision of Cormac McCarthey's book of the same name. I highly recommend the book. I don't want to give away any plot points, but McCarthey offers a glimpse of hope at the end of the book which the film's screenplay and/or director mishandled to the point of ineffectiveness. I will say it is well acted by Viggo Mortensen and well shot. I would not normally recommend the movie, but since you are on the hunt, you might want to consider it.

MP said...

Frank is right about "The Road", which is about as grim and depressing as anything I've ever seen. It makes "The Book of Eli" look like "Little Miss Sunshine".

James Reasoner said...

Nope, not the Necronomicon. Although that would have made for an interesting movie, too.

Yeah, the same thing struck me about the ending.

Frank and MP,
I've never read anything by McCarthy. The lack of quotation marks always bothers me. But I'm interested in this book and might try it and the movie made from it, one of these days. Maybe even relatively soon.

Steve Oerkfitz said...

Just watched The Book of Eli a couple of days ago. You are being rather kind to it. I thought it pretty dreadful. The whole premise just seemed so riduiculous and I thought the action scenes were handled poorly. Loved Tom Waits tho.

pattinase (abbott) said...

You might like my son-in-law's book which is about just this and comes out next week. THE REAPERS ARE THE ANGELS, under the name Alden Bell.

Carole said...

Seriously? I thought your review was great until the ending. I thought it was feel good ending of the year.

What we have inside cannot be taken away from us unless we freely give it. Good stuff.

Or perhaps I missed the whole meaning of the story.

Anonymous said...

No points for guessing what the book is. It’s pretty obvious right from the start.

Hot Dames on Cold Slabs?
Kiss My Fist?
Skirts Bring Me Sorrow?
Longarm & the Sand Pirates?

Geez! What could it be?

John Hocking

James Reasoner said...

I'm a notoriously soft touch when it comes to movies.

Thanks for the tip. I'll definitely check it out.

I did find the ending rather inspirational, like the ending of FAHRENHEIT 451 that Charles mentioned earlier.

Yep, they're still fighting over LONGARM AND THE SAND PIRATES in that post-apocalyptic future. I knew somebody would guess it.

Juri said...

I haven't read McCarthy's novel, but I was wondering why THE ROAD (the film, I mean) got so much bad press. I thought it was very well made and the depressing mood was very touching, not just depressing. I almost cried throughout the movie. I'm ready to notice there were problems in the film, but all in all I thought it was very good.

George said...

I highly recommend McCarthy's novel, THE ROAD. Yes, the lack of quotation marks is annoying, but McCarthy has done that in every one of his books that I've read (and I've just about read them all). McCarthy's BLOOD MERIDIAN is the most violent book I've ever read. Someone dies on practically every page!

Suresh Ramasubramanian said...

Post apocalyptic - only one that I can think of that I even liked.

"On the beach" - based on the Nevil Shute book of the same name. Starring Gregory Peck, Ava Gardner, Fred Astaire. Directed by Stanley Kramer.