The Book of Eli (15)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner15/01/2010

Three out of Five stars
Running time: 118 mins

Impressively directed post-apocalyptic thriller with superb fight sequences and a strong cast, though it's also slightly too long and never quite connects on an emotional level.

What's it all about?
Directed by The Hughes Brothers, The Book of Eli is set in a post-apocalyptic America, 30 years after a devastating nuclear war, where food and water are precious commodities. Denzel Washington plays Eli, a travelling warrior who has made it his personal mission to protect the Earth's last remaining Bible and he's not above brutally slaughtering anyone who gets in his way.

When Eli walks into a makeshift town of assorted thugs he meets their leader, Carnegie (Gary Oldman), who has heard that a Bible still exists and is desperate to find it, intending to use it for his own vaguely defined nefarious purposes. Meanwhile, Carnegie's adopted daughter Solara (Mila Kunis) attaches herself to Eli and joins him on his quest, but when Carnegie learns that Eli has the Bible, he gives chase, along with four carloads of vicious gunmen.

The Good
The performances are excellent. Washington reigns in his usual grinning persona and portrays Eli as a man of quiet strength and few words – indeed, he probably has less dialogue here than in any of his previous films. There's also strong support from Kunis, Oldman and Ray Stevenson as Carnegie's chief henchman, as well as a pair of delightfully bizarre cameos from Michael Gambon and Frances de la Tour.

The fight sequences are excellent, particularly the opening attack, which takes place entirely in silhouette (under a bridge) and is filmed in a single take; there's also a pair of terrific, crisply edited shoot-outs that are genuinely exciting to watch. In addition, both the production design and the effects work are extremely impressive and there are some striking images, as well as some subtle nods to other post-apocalypse movies.

The Bad
That said, the film drags in places and is a good twenty minutes too long. It also struggles to convey the importance of the Bible on both a narrative and an emotional level – compare this with the very similar The Road, whose message of hope and humanity is all the more powerful for its simplicity.

Worth seeing?
As post-apocalyptic thrillers go, The Book of Eli lacks the emotional depth of The Road but it's worth seeing for both the performances and the impressive fight sequences.

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Content updated: 17/10/2017 01:00

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