I slipped out late on Sunday night to catch this new Denzel Wasington movie The Book of Eli. I didn’t really know what to expect but walked away really impressed with a movie that shot unerringly straight at deep divide between faith and religion. And I hope this aint news to you – but the two have nothing in common. 
(side note: I so dig DW! The guy is just  a fantastic actor. With him and Gary Oldman opposite one another – it made for a really great film…but I digress)

I’m going to do my best to avoid any spoliers here but the basic set-up is that the world has been trashed by a (presumably) nuclear war and Eli (Washington) has the last remaining copy of the Bible since survivors of the war freaked out and burned all the other copies under the notion that religion is ultimately what caused the war in the first place. From that premise we see Eli’s quest to walk ‘west’ on his mysterious mission. Eli is somhow some supabad ninja dude with sword skills and he mostly wants to be left alone to do his thing. But when he rolls into the classic frontier town run by Gary Oldman, G.O. learns about the book and he wants it…

At this movie’s heart is one of the issues that is most near and dear to me personally and that’s the difference between the word and The Word. Oldman’s character is one of the few educated people left in the world and he is well aware of the power of religion to control people. He wants the Bible becuse he sees it as a weapon that will allow his dust bowl empire to grow – he just needs the right words and those words are in the Bible. Eli, on the other hand is a man of faith and not religion. He knows the book is sacred and powerful in what it contains – but he also knows that DOING what the book teaches is more important than keeping the book safe. To this point, neithe rcharacter is flat however. Both wrestle with their choices and long for clearer lines – which is wonderful to watch. And it seems that each genuinely desires to make things better in a world that’s gone tango uniform – but how they go about it makes all the differnedce in the world.

The movie is violent and has more than one blue streak but I never felt like it was over the top or out of synch with the genre. The best thing about BOE is the completely unflinching look at a man who is not only deeply motivated by his personal faith but also the not-at-all-subtle indication that his faith is based on something real, that God actually walks with Eli, guiding him, protecting him, speaking to him in specific and personal ways. It was really cool to see a movie take that rather uncomfortable angle and stick with the whole way…

…at least all the way up to the last shot. I don’t want to give anything away but depending on how you see that last shot it either makes some obtuse point where Roddy McDowell totally misses what just happened (which I cna live with) or the last shot sells the whole thing out and that kinda bends me.

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2 Comments
  1. I really enjoyed the movie, too, I think one of the more important themes is the one you suggest. The twist was totally something that you’d see in the Bible, too.

    I assumed it would be pretty violent, which is too bad because that did not appeal to me. But the rest of it did, aside from the very very ending with the girl. Typical I suppose for that kind of movie.

    Being a creative professional, I like to fantasize about non-Hollywood-ized versions of movies. A version of the movie that didn’t have to get watered down to “appeal to the masses.” This one would have been awesome. 🙂

  2. I thought this was an excellent movie. I’m really not a Denzel fan, but he played the part wonderfully. This was a really inspiring movie for me.

    The ending was twisted, but awesome 😀

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