Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Book of Eli

The hype around 'Book of Eli' was reason enough for me to develop more than a gracious amount of skepticism about the film. To make things worse, people that were telling me about it were very divided in terms of the central message the film was trying to convey, but all of them at least agreed on something: Watch the film. So, thanks to Mnet's Sunday night blockbusters (which is mostly an excuse to ignore by better film judgement), I finally got the opportunity to experience the film for myself...

First things first: I'm not a huge fan of Denzel Washington, as his dramatic muscles seem to be limited to a single character archetype, namely, the silent, but compassionate hero that isn't afraid to get his hands dirty. And surprise surprise, guess what type of character Denzel plays here? Don't get me wrong, he fits the role well, I was just hoping to see him step out of his boundaries a bit. Filling up the rest of the cast is the super sexy Mila Kunis (Max Payne, Black Swan), who actually puts quite a nice spin on the 'damsel in distress' role and Gary Oldman (Harry Potter, Batman Begins, The Dark knight) As a badass, bible-destroying, blind woman-beating, bad-mouthed villain (he is also well read and listens to classical music). Whilst no one is noticeably bad in the film, no one is really good either, but this might also be largely due to the film's action/dialouge ratio, that doesn't really provide many opportunities for the cast to flex their acting pecks.

"...a badass, bible-destroying, blind woman-beating, bad-mouthed villain (he is also well read and listens to classical music)." 

But what the film lacks in depth, it seems to try to make up for with some awesomely gruesome action sequences, that basically involves the protagonist taking on 30 plus armed thugs with a machete-like sword, confrontations he usually overcomes without any serious injuries. And even when he does get badly injured, he somehow ('miraculously' might be the right word to use here) manages to pick himself up again. But don't worry, the film does actually give a plausible explanantion for the hero's amazingly good luck: yes, you guessed it – divine intervention. And whilst it isn't my place as a reviewer to judge the script and the religious presumptions it makes, it does seem very contrasting when one takes a hard look at the critical commentary the film delivers concerning organised religion, namely that it is a powerful tool that can be used to manipulate and control societies and steer economic and social structures (to both their doom and salvation). 

Despite this strange ideological contradiction present, Book of Eli remains a very 'pretty' film, in a very non-traditional way though, as the dark, brooding post-appocalyptic setting is really well imagined and put together, complementing the very serious tone that the two directors, Albert and Allen Hughes successfully establishes. The dark camera filter that is used is especially effective in giving the movie a very sombre feel and the landscapes seem even more painfully desolate. 

To be honest, I truly believe Book of Eli would have been better if it took a more clear stance on the religious questions and issues it so bluntly raises. The other option would have been to scrap the religious sub-text entirely, but the film's kind of ambiguous approach results in the film leaving you more confused than enlightened (in my opinion, at least). If that was the Directors' intent, well bravo, but if it wasn't – epic fail. This review will also then take the stance that this was a failure...

The baddies outside have a rocket launcher and a Gatling gun... they stand no chance against Mila's braided hair though.

 Rating: 2-and-a-half Meerkat Tails