Thursday, January 21, 2010

Thursday Night at the Movies - The Book of Eli

When we first saw the previews for this, many months ago, I thought it was The Road. But that has Viggo Mortenson, not Denzel Washington. So another post-apocalyptic movie was upon us. The Book of Eli features Denzil Washington, looking pretty bad-ass as he travels across the blasted remains of America.He is on a quest, to deliver the last copy of the Bible to some mythical place in the west. Along the way he easily dispatches various desperate villains but meets his match in Gary Oldham, who has set himself up as despot in a small town. The movie is filmed with a weird light that gave me the chills. Apparently, the "war" ripped a "hole in the sky" which, even 30 years later, will blind you (hence the bad-ass sunglasses).

This is one of those movies that I liked while I was watching it, and still would recommend it, but after I got home, problems with the plot started to bother me.

There are some spoilers ahead but I won't reveal the details of the conclusion. Eli has been walking west for 30 years carrying, what he believes, is the last copy of the Bible in the world. It is not clear how he knows this. He says that all the copies of the Bible were rounded up and destroyed because a lot of people believed it was the cause of the war. It is never revealed, beyond that, what the war was about. It sure caused a lot of damage. The town that Oldman runs is a near ruin. After 30 years, nobody seems to have made any attempt at fixing anything. The movie veers dangerously close to Mad Max territory here. The town has a secure water supply but apparently the only thing to eat is 30 year old canned goods. Oldman thinks he can resurrect civilization, if only he had a Bible to give moral authority to his words. This is nonsense. Hardly anyone around can remember a time before the war, most are too young. He could just make stuff up to give him the moral authority he thinks he needs. Even without that, he has a loyal group of strongmen backing him up and control of the water. And lots of guns. And apparently lots of gasoline (the Mad Max connection). Then again, it may be that everyone is doomed anyway and only Oldman doesn't know it.

I'm still waiting for The Road. The book, by Cormac McCarthy, was one of the most depressing books I ever read. The movie had a very limited opening in Houston (one theater). A few weeks ago I saw an ad in the paper that says it's playing "everywhere", but as near as I can tell, it's playing nowhere.

1 comment:

Stan Denski said...

I thought The Road (the novel) was actually... I don't want to say "uplifting" but I think it's unfairly tagged as depressing. We read it wondering if the man and the boy will make it, but we realize the absurdity of the question -- not just for them in their dead world -- but for all of us. None of us are going to "make it," of course we aren't. So it becomes then all about moving from one can of pears to the next. I love the book and have no interest in the film whatsoever. Take away McCarthy's language and I just don't care. when I read him there are often passages where i stop and have to read them out loud so I can "see" the words hang in the air. I hear someone is actually trying to make a film of his "Blood Meridian." That novel makes "The Road" seem like a Hallmark Card. It is the most relentlessly cruel novel ever written.