Review: The Book of Eli
If recent flicks like Daybreakers take a cinematic psycho-political introspective at concepts of what a world might be like if it were devoid of humans and inhabited only by vampires with a voracious lust for blood (*cough* OIL), then The Book of Eli peers into a world sans Bibles. Many may argue such a world is fast approaching via the tornado of post-post-modernism that seems to simultaneously form and demolish the foundations for current trends of thought. Eli fleshes out a world where people not only don’t know how to pray correctly but literally don’t know what prayer is. In a scene which serves as a thematic crest for the film, the main character Eli teaches his would be companion Solara two long lost practices, both how to sit and enjoy breaking bread together as well as how to utter a simple grace before a meal.
The Book of Eli is cast in a post-apocalyptic setting which takes artistic license to showcase some of what humanity unrestrained might be like, a torrential wasteland of hopelessness and lawless deterioration. Eli stands out in his composure as well as his values, reminiscing upon the world that was with quotes such as, “People had more than they needed, people didn’t know what was precious and what wasn’t, people threw away things they kill each other for now.” Eli is a film that calls for a simplicity in values and a course for life that while far from easy, may allow humankind to experience a taste of what they were created for.
Eli builds for a while in subtlety but quickly unfurls a core message that speaks to the significance and impact of the Bible. Through a simple yet well executed action adventure story with clear shots at American culture, which boasts of its Christian-Biblical roots, yet only seems interested in the ancillary blessing rather than the actual content as well as Western Christianity which can be seen to abuse its power of religion. Eli has a message to both the religious and the irreligious, calling both to recognize the significance of the voice of God rather than the voice of man, to reject the appeal of pietistic self-flattery or religious power mongering.
In the end, The Book which Eli has been carrying and protecting is finally put into print and placed on a shelf amongst the other religions of the world while his would be disciple dons his pack and sword to return home. The cynic might note that the only thing Eli transferred to Solara was his Crocodile-Dundee-chomping blade, yet sword is often a Biblical metaphor for The Bible and perhaps that is a subtle point in the movie – even if your life only transfers to one person directly, that may be mission accomplished as you may never know the full extent of your actions in impacting this world. Eli’s closing prayerful overture rather poetically self-eulogizes a man who lived for an audience of One, the finale of a character who came to a realization of his own, “In all these years I’ve been carrying it and reading it every day, I got so caught up in keeping it safe that I forgot to live by what I learned from it…to do more for others than you do for yourself.”
In parting, we leave you with Eli’s closing prayer:
“Dear Lord, Thank you for giving me the strength and the conviction to complete the task you entrusted to me. Thank you for guiding me straight and true through the many obstacles in my path. And for keeping me resolute when all around seemed lost. Thank you for your protection and your many signs along the way. Thank you for any good that I may have done, I’m so sorry about the bad. Thank you for the friend I made. Please watch over her as you watched over me. Thank you for finally allowing me to rest. I’m so very tired, but I go now to my rest at peace. I fought the good fight, I finished the race, I kept the faith.”
FYI: The Book of Eli starring Denzel Washington, Gary Oldman, Mila Kunis and Ray Stevenson is Rated-R with a running time of 1:18. Directed by Allen and Albery Hughes, released by Warner Bros., grossed over $94 million domestically, with a $32 million opening weekend for January 15, 2010 and is the 3rd highest grossing post-apocalyptic movie of all time according to boxofficemojo.com
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