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Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Book of Eli [movie review]

WITH THE REALITY of the present devastation in Haiti on the news 24/7 and the phantasmagorical world of Avatar offering an escape, along comes a new and different kind of movie with a very disturbing, yet at the same time strangely hope-filled vision of our future.

This film does to the ears what Avatar does for the eyes. Avatar enchants the audience with breathtaking visuals; The Book of Eli engages the audience with startling audio. BoE is stark and raw, showing us what little humanity, let alone civilization, remains 30 years after a nuclear war and the “Big Flash.” The world (and the film) may still be in full color but the covering of atomic ash and dust give Earth and all who live on it a sepia tone with gray highlights.

Eli (Denzel Washington) is on a lonely, dangerous, God-given mission to safely transport the last extant Bible to some place and to someone “in the west.” The humans who survive live by the law of the jungle, or would, if there were any trees left. Murder, robbery, rape are totally random and commonplace. Enter Carnegie (Gary Oldman), a two-bit dictator of a town out west with a very rare talent: he knows how to read. He directs his gang of thugs to find this one Book that is more powerful and dangerous than any other, for it was “aimed at the poor ad desperate.” Through the words of this Book, he hopes to control the hearts and minds of the illiterate masses.

Be warned, the movie is exceptionally violent—yet not bloody. Apparently the red would contrast too much with the surrounding dust. The film answers the question of what humans would be like with their instincts untamed and unchecked by religion and it is not a pretty picture. Describing the old world now long dead, Eli says, “People had more than we needed and threw away things people kill for now.” Chapstick, gloves, and the most precious commodity of all—water —become the coin of the realm.

Paradoxically, it is the Bible and not Eli (whose name means “God” for those not up on their Hebrew) that has the leading, albeit silent role in this movie.

At one critical point, Eli concedes, “I spent so long keeping this book safe, I forgot to live by it.”

This movie will stay with you and make you think. It will force you to reexamine your life and lifestyle. Above all it will introduce the Bible and its power to transform lives to a whole new audience and generation.

The Book of Eli’s presentation of a post-apocalyptic world challenges the Avatar juggernaut starting Friday, January 15.

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