The Book of Eli…

Just got back from seeing this post-apocalyptic mad-max thriller of epic proportions.  In this movie Denzel is part prophet & part muse.  Other times he is part Jackie Chan part VanDamme.  It was fascinating to see actually these different parts play themselves out through an actor that most recently was in the subway train equivalent of Pushing Tin.  But it worked.  Denzel carried enough charisma and enough pathos to make the character come to life.  The story is deeper than your average cinema fair and I’m sure it will offend nearly everyone somehow.  Whether for being too slow.  Being too violent.  Being too myopic.  Being too theological.  Being atheological.  But I’ll get to that in a bit.

Eli – The Chosen One?

First, I must warn you – this movie is a mood movie.  You have to come ready for wide vistas of apocalyptic carnage and a totally foreboding score.  The cinematography is gripping in its starkness.  Throughout the entire movie I knew I had to be seeing tons and tons of CG efforts on the screen as it was just other-worldly barren. Way to blank a canvas to be shot in a real location.  The musical backdrop doesn’t help much on this front either.  You’ll find more lunar landscapes here too.  But if you can get past all this – better yet, if you can embrace the vast wasteland we are presented with – there are delights untold to partake in.

Eli & the Book

The story is odd to say the least.  Throw in a little Mad Max and some southern Baptist Bible thumping and you almost have it.  Eli has a book.  And Gary Oldman’s character – played with the panache of a wily Bible Thumper – wants it.  And he wants it badly.  What is the book that everyone is dying to protect and dying to get their hands on?  Why the Bible of course.  Seriously.  A King James version no less.  A great big tome of a thing, which is the last Bible on the entire planet.  So here you have your plot.  Enter several brutal slaughters laid down by our man Eli protecting said book and we have the action portion of our stew.  Throw in several different surprises at the ending and voila we have the makings of a deep thinker of a movie that glories in the restoration of the Bible to the world.  Wait just a cotton-pickin-second.

A Come to Jesus Meeting

A Quick Come to Jesus Meeting

I think what I’m about to say here could be constituted as something of a spoiler.  I personally don’t think it is – but I’m warning you in advance just so I don’t get any hate mail.  Eli befriends a young girl born after “the war” and instantly begins to ask questions about the book.  In explaining its power Eli explains “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you… at least that’s what I got out of it.”  Wah? Wait just a minute now… what?

Pardon me while I turn this apocalyptic shoot’em up into one big theological aside – but I can’t help myself.  If you don’t mind, I’d like to take a second out to talk with those of you that think similarly as Eli about the Bible.  Whether you think of yourself as a Christian or not – if you think the Bible’s one main overriding message is that we should “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you” you’ve got it all wrong.  Exactly backwards and completely wrong.  The Old and New testaments are not a reference guide for things we ought to be doing.  Sure, there are guidelines to help us live a righteous life – but I’d even venture to say that these guides are irrelevant as well.  The apostle Paul in Romans 3:10 cleared this one up fairly succinctly when he said “There are none righteous, no not one.”  More to the point we are instructed to Abide in Christ and that then He will abide in us.  “As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abides in the vine; no more can you, except you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He that abides in me, and I in him, the same brings forth much fruit: for without me you can do nothing.”  For without Me, you can do nothing.

Gary & Mussolini

Oldman & Mussolini

This is the message of the gospel and the entire Bible.  Abide in God.  Allow Him to forgive you and to allow his grace to restore you to the original state all humans were intended for – perfect communion with Him.  Sure, once we are forgiven and reborn, we will follow the golden rule through His help.  We will do “greater things” than even Christ did, which is share this amazingly fantastic news across the planet and see millions and millions follow after Him.  But if you are of the mind that doing good to others is some sort of path to heaven, this would be incorrect.  Exactly wrong.

So, what did I think of the movie?  I loved it.  Loved the action and the characters.  Each one was played perfectly and dialed in the raw emotive firepower necessary to hit this movie completely out of the park.  But even so I’m going to give it a thumbs down.  Towards the end of the movie we see a shot of Eli’s book being slid in on a shelf with numerous other spiritual books from other religions.  It was then that the movie snapped into place for me.  The agenda was clear.  All religions are important.  All lead towards the path of living a better life.  The Bible did that through “Do unto others”.  Each of these other books do this too and whether you are a Muslim, Hindu or a Christian… follow your foundational beliefs and do good to others… and ultimately you will find your way to heaven.  This lie is so insidiously deceiving I can’t recommend anyone going anywhere near it.  Its so subtly appealing, and yet utter tripe.

If you are mature enough to understand the agenda this movie is bringing to the table – great.  Go enjoy its fantastically crafted yet surreal landscapes and its beautifully imparted acting.  But if you can’t even begin parsing what I am saying here then I recommend that you avoid the movie lines and pick up a Bible for yourself (heck, if you need a Bible I’ll send you one, not any old Gideon quality Bible but a really good one) and read through the book of John and see if Jesus doesn’t spell it out for you clearer than Eli will.

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6 Responses

  1. JamieTheBastard

    Hey dude. Just discovered your site after looking up info on an intriguing sci fi film called The Signal which I saw recently. Unfortunately I watched it in the car on my laptop whilst waiting to pick up a friend and missed a lot of the dialogue, I really need to watch The Signal again at home and digest it properly. I quite enjoy movies that don’t spell everything out for you and are open to interpretation.

    I have to disagree with you on The Book of Eli. I thought this film was awful, just atrocious. To clarify I am a fan of the Post Apocalypse genre, The Road Warrior is one of my all time favourite films, but The Book of Eli commited too many of the sins that many PA movies do. I didn’t see the film at the cinema but bought the DVD on the strength of the cast. Denzel Washington. Gary Oldman. Tom Waites. Michael Gambon. Malcolm McDowell. Mila Kunis. Post Apocalypse. It’s gotta be good right? The film started promisingly enough with the Gas masked Denzel skewering the mutant cat. It borrowed the bleached out, almost colourless style of cinematography from The Road to good effect, I agree Eli did look great. But it was all downhill from here unfortunately, just too many lapses in logic for me to be able to suspend disbelief and buy into the film.

    The first was the hanging corpse in the closet which just happened to be wearing a brand new pair of Doctor Martens boots 30 years after the apocalypse. An unlooted boot store 30 years after World War Three? That dude should have been celebrating not hanging himself. Not very likely (and the fact that the boots were conveniently just the right size to fit Eli?). But then we find Eli has a working MP3 player. 30 years after the apocalypse. Ludicrous, hey guys ever hear of Planned Obsolesence? My Ipod crapped out after 5. Wouldn’t it have been fried by EMP anyway? Hey he shared his roasted cat with a mouse, take that Sylvester.

    The next day we is on the road again and Eli looks like he has just picked up his clothes from the Laundry, he is immaculately clean. So clean he is gleaming, even after all that ash and crap he walked through the day before. Maybe that shack had a functional washing machine. (In stark contrast to The Road which seems to have been an influence on Book of Eli, Viggo Mortensen’s character was so filthy you could almost smell him). The post apocalypse landscape is visually stunning, the cinematography, even if borrowed from The Road is superb. No problem there. So on to GaryOldmansville, I don’t recall his characters name off the top of my head. Tom Waites, what can you say the guy is a legend, though I don’t think the script gave him much to chew on.

    Off to the bar for a drink, I’m starting to wonder now, this guy really doesn’t like cats. Now the point I really don’t get is why Gary Oldman’s character is so obsessed with finding The Bible. How is it supposed to help him control people? He’s got control of the water, a goon squad and weapons, he already controls everybody anyway, what is a bible going to do? Are the filmmakers commenting on Religion as a form of Control? I think the Mussolini book would be of more use to him anyway. Gary Oldman is always great but he certainly chews his way through the scenery in this one. Denzel Washington’s fight scenes are impressive and he does make a good action hero. Just keep the cats out of his way!

    The next part of the film is where I have the biggest problem with Book of Eli. For a start how are they maintaining their vehicles 30 years after WW III? Parts wear out, rubber deteriorates, gaskets wear out, even if you could find tyres somewhere they would have deteriorated too badly to be driven on. But the biggest problem I have with this film is the firefight with the dear old cannibal couple. They and Carnegie, which I think was Gary Oldman’s character name, had an arsenal of weaponry that any gangbangers would be envious of. 30 year old weaponry in Pristine Condition. They then proceed to fire off more rounds than expended in most small wars and police actions. Where in the hell are they getting all this ammo from? Cats? Ammunition also deteriorates and I believe it wouldn’t be much good after 30 years. Are we to believe that the Weapons and Munitions industry along with the Auto Spares and Laundrettes managed to survive the apocalypse and are thriving? Bollocks. This is just too much Hollywood action movie crap for my taste. A lot of Post Apocalypse films make this mistake but it’s just too unbelievable.

    In The Road Warrior firearms are rare and we see that the ammunition is also rare and carefully hoarded. Humungus has only a few bullets left in the case for his revolver and only uses them as a last resort to try and cripple the truck. Max has no shells for his shotgun until he finds one viable cartridge on the dead raider and the woman at the refinery gives him a handfull more, this is much more believable. (Road Warrior was set only a few years after the apocalypse so it’s not too far fetched that they can keep their vehicles running, yet with Fury Road George Miller chucked all that out the window and: 30 years after the apocalypse they have vintage cars in perfect condition, they fire off more rounds than expended in most small wars and police actions and they have so much gasoline they can shoot it out of guitars! Ludicrous, who’s writing this stuff? Cats?)

    Anyway I digress so on to the end. I sussed out that Eli was blind before the reveal, there are quite a few clues throughout the movie that this is so, but I totally spaced on the bible being in Braille! Doh. Quite convenient that Eli could recite the whole thing before he died, or was that God keeping him going til he was finished? (he did get shot an awful lot). I was disappointed that there was no resolution to the cat sub-plot. Finally the part of the movie that really made me want to throw up was at the end when Malcolm McDowell places the Bible alongside the Koran and all the other religious tomes. About as subtle as a brick to the head. Thank God I’m an Atheist.

    I realise that this is quite an old post but I had to weigh in with my two cents worth.
    The Book of Eli A criminal waste of a great cast (and a few cats).

    Reply
    • Taylor Holmes

      Hey Jamie – welcome. No, I’m sure this movie doesn’t play well with everyone. And yet, you wrote what? 10 paragraphs about how much you didn’t like it! hahahah. Welcome.

      A lot of my more current movies I’ve reviewed I link to in the upper right of the posts… the stars? You should try some of those out. Like ARQ? Have you seen Primer? Timecrimes? The One I Love? Point your brain at one of those. Or heck, I have a million more here: http://www.taylorholmes.com/movies-that-will-make-you-think – which I don’t give out because I think that page crashes my server? hahah.

      Regardless, sorry you didn’t dig Eli. But I’m sure there are a million other movies I’ve talked about you could jump in on the conversation with.

      Reply
  2. Beez

    Wow. Just wow.
    “But if you are of the mind that doing good to others is some sort of path to heaven, this would be incorrect. Exactly wrong.”
    First, let me say the reason my mind is blown – I only learned this fact in 2009 when I was 49 years old. Before that I did not understand my own faith that I’d had my entire life and once I discovered this Truth it left me ostracized from my church which totally believes in self-righteous “doing”. So to read that truth when I was least expecting to come across it – while perusing a blog on sci-fi and mind scratching movies – my mind is really blown.

    Second, I saw this movie, one year after learning this Truth about the gospel of Jesus Christ and yet I did not recognize the agenda. Possibly because I was still a babe in understanding that we cannot live up to The Golden Rule no matter how good our intentions are or how hard we try and our only path to redemption and possibly coming close to righteously performing The Golden Rule is to recognize we are NOT good so depending on Christ to abide in us, guide us – only then can we come close to producing good works (which said good works are not our salvation). Anyway, not trying to turn this into my own personal testimony or sermon – I was shocked, and pleasantly surprised to come across that message here and it made me think about this movie differently than I had. Previously I kind of just went “Denzel, sci fi, martial arts – favorite things. Oh look, he’s protecting a Bible! That’s nice to see in a secular movie.” Then I thought nothing more about this movie other than whenever the subject of cannibalism came up and I’d bring up the knowledge that cannibalism causes some disease and I learned that fact from this movie(Googling it to be sure it was true, of course); and oh yeah, it’s kind of hard to forget Denzel “showering” using fast food wet naps. That was as deep as my thoughts went until reading your review. But, the agenda…yeah, I see it now.

    Reply
    • Taylor Holmes

      Hey there Beez,
      I am a Christian – that realizes that I am in desperate need of God, every single day – that happens to also love movies. I believe that Hollywood conveys truth regularly, they just don’t know they are doing it. So I love talking about movies and the things they are intentionally and unintentionally saying. Most people don’t know why I love doing it, and you happened to figure it out in your first try! hahaha. So kudos to you. But it also works for a secular audience, because generally speaking, truth is truth.

      Anyway, welcome Beez! Enjoy your stay.

      Reply

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