Have you ever gone to a movie that felt like about three? I had a weird experience at the cinema last night. I went to The Book of Eli, with Denzel Washington as the title character, who never says his own name and quite literally walks by faith, not by sight.
Eli lives 30 years after some cataclysm, probably a nuclear war, if you add up the clues along the way: the sun came down to earth, everything got burned up, lots of people went blind, most of the population is dead and grey ash covers everything. Plants haven’t made it, but a few dusty people did. The ones that were left over managed to survive by raping and eating anything and anyone that happens to come their way. Travellers (who for some stupid, unexplained reason, stick to what’s left of a highway) get tricked into becoming rogue bandit’s dinners.
Don’t count Eli among the unholy though, he eats cats, not Carls, and he’s traveling West with his machete, sawed-off shotgun and book. A book that is so important, everyone seems to want it. I don’t think I’m spoiling anything here if I mention which book it is, but just in case you’re the only person who’s never heard anything about this movie, and hasn’t seen an ad, and can’t imagine which book it could be, I’ll let you be surprised.
Eli is a loner. One so adept at slicing off body parts and shooting down turkey-vultures, that he’s managed to survive on his own. He even has a working MP3 player for goodness sakes.
Unfortunately, Eli slides into a dusty, broken-down western style town with a sherriff who wants the book. He wants it so dang bad, he’s sending out road crews out to search and kill anyone who’s still alive, and confiscate their books. Gary Oldman (the sherriff) captures Eli, and at first tries to cajole him to join his side through wine, women and song. But our drifter won’t take the bait, the book won’t allow it. So after some struggling, he makes his way West.
Partway through, Eli realizes having the company of Solara, a prostitute-prisoner wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world, and after saving her life a few times, they buddy up. Hollywood seems to have an on-again love affair with the apocalypse again. Think of Cormac’s Road with more swordfights. Or Mad Max with more dust and a little bit less crazy dread locks.
Up to this point, I really liked this film. The action was frantic, the whole place looked a proper mess, and the humour was just the right amount to keep you from going post-apocalyptic in your own seat.
The ending of the movie is supremely unsatisfying in a number of ways. Without providing spoilers, I felt confused at the character’s choices, confused by the director’s choices, and bemused by a little twist. I’m not sure if it made me like it more or less (although I’m leaning towards less), but at least it made me think.