The Hughes Brothers, Albert and Allen, appeared on everyone’s radar in 1993 with Menace II Society. Since then they’ve made one documentary and three other feature films, the latest of which is The Book of Eli. While the directors may have been on everyone’s radar in the 1990s, they’ve yet to really live up to their early hype.
To put my previous statement into context, I still haven’t seen Dead Presidents, but From Hell while enjoyable, left much to be desired. Now with their fifth film, Eli they again deliver a film with tons of potential that ends up not delivering on the goods. However, I’m having trouble pinpointing exactly what didn’t work with Eli, because there was much to be enjoyed.
The acting is solid across the board. Gary Oldman shines as the film’s antagonist and Mila Kunis even delivers a good performance in this serious role proving she has more than just comic chops to offer. But, of course, it was Denzel as the film’s titular hero that really carries you through the film. He even performed all of his own stunts in the action sequences, which rank up there with some of the best I’ve seen this year.
The look of the film is wonderful too. There are some really fantastic cinematic shots throughout. The fights scenes, specifically, are shot in a way that I’m not sure I’ve ever seen before. Often with really long impressive takes. I think, then, what really must have let all these great elements down was the story.
Eli is a lone nomad traveling an apocalyptic war torn American countryside doing whatever is needed to survive, including eating cats and birds. We also learn early on that when facing several attackers at once Eli can take them down without a second thought often severing many heads and limbs in the process. It’s obvious he’s on a mission, but what that is remains unclear in the beginning.
Eli is sidetracked when he takes a pit stop in a small ramshackle town ruthlessly run by a man named Carnegie (Oldman). Carnegie is obsessed with finding a very specific book, one that he’s willing to kill for, it just so happens that Eli has this exact book. While in town Eli meets Solara (Kunis), Carnegie’s stepdaughter, she wants out of the town and tags along with Eli despite his obvious desire to remain alone.
What follows is a whole lot of chase scenes and mayhem as Carnegie and his boys chase the unlikely pair through the desolate remains of the country leading to a somewhat interesting conclusion.
There are some interesting ideas presented in this film, but for the most part it feels like just another post-apocalyptic film, which, in of itself, isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I think maybe the story doesn’t really fit with all the bloody violence. It’s almost as if two different films were mashed together. That and there were several glaring moments that totally took me out of the fantasy of the film.
I’m generally willing to except a lot of things in film, especially in sci-fi. When Eli says that a voice led him to the book and told him to travel west and that he would be protected, I was fine with that. But I find it hard to believe that he’s been traveling for 30 years and is iPod still has power. It also seems a little far-fetched that Eli has this book and he happens to stumble into the one town where the leader of said town is obsessed with getting his hands on that very same book. And lastly, no matter how you dress Mila Kunis, she’ll never look like a bad ass; she’s just too cute for that.
I really wanted to like this film. The directors have proved their talents in the past, the cast was great and the fight scenes were superb. Whatever the reason, something within the pages of The Book of Eli prevented me from truly enjoying it they way I thought I should.
The Book Of Eli is presented in anamorphic widescreen 2.4:1 and DTS-HD master audio 5.1 surround sound. If nothing else, this is a very well shot film with a great look and this Blu-Ray transfer is fantastic. The eerie soundtrack sound great too.
Starting Over: (13 min.) The filmmakers and cast talk about what life would really be like after an apocalypse and how some of these ideas were implemented in the film. This is kinda interesting I guess.
Eli’s Journey: (18 min.) Here’s your more typical making of. Still, as far as these go, this one is pretty good.
Deleted/Alternate Scenes: (2 min.) Nothing too exciting here, though you do get to see the sweet bar fight again.
The Look of Eli: (35 min) This in-depth feature looks at exactly how several different aspects of the film were conceived, build and shot. This is actually a pretty cool piece.
The Book of Eli Soundtrack: (5 min.) The Hughes bros. and the composer talk about the music that influenced the soundtrack.
A Lost Tale: Billy: (5 min.) An animated tale of Carnegie (Gary Oldman) when he was a kid.
WB Maximum Movie Mode: See some of the special features listed above picture-in-picture while watching the film. Seems kind of pointless to me.
This Blu-ray Disc release also includes DVD and Digital Copies of the film.
With all the talent both in front of and behind the camera, The Book of Eli had the potential to be really good. Sadly, it is just okay. Denzel gives another fantastic performance, but the over all feel of the movie doesn’t do quite enough to elevate itself. This is one case where I actually enjoyed the special features for than the film itself.
Warner Home Video presents The Book of Eli. Written by Gary Whitta. Directed by The Hughes Brothers. Starring: Denzel Washington, Gary Oldman, Mila Kunis and Jennifer Beals. Running time: 118 minutes. Rated R for some brutal violence and language. Released on DVD: June 15, 2010.
Mike Noyes received his Masters Degree in Film from the Academy of Art University, San Francisco. A few of his short films can be viewed here: http://www.youtube.com/user/mikebnoyes. He recently published his first novel which you can buy here: https://www.amazon.com/Seven-Days-Years-Mike-Noyes-ebook/dp/B07D48NT6B/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1528774538&sr=8-1&keywords=seven+days+seven+years