THE BOOK OF ELI. This post-apocalyptic wasteland really makes an impression
The same opinion is shared by the main character of the film by the Hughes brothers – Eli (excellent as always, Washington). He is a wanderer who has been traversing the vast, war-ravaged desert of the planet for 30 years. He is an aging loner who still remembers normal life and old customs. He is also a kind of savior and the last righteous man – a defender of faith and human values concealed in his ample possession, the titular book. It is for this book that he traverses the continent, killing anyone who stands in his way and threatens his extraordinary mission in any way. However, one day, the scythe hits the stone. This stone is the self-proclaimed ruler of the rapidly developing town, Carnegie (Oldman never disappoints), into which Eli comes somewhat by chance and somewhat out of the need to replenish supplies. It is known that a confrontation must take place – all the more so since Carnegie has been hunting for the treasure hidden by Eli for years and will do anything to get it into his hands.
It must be admitted that the post-apocalyptic world created by the Hughes brothers in The Book of Eli makes a strong impression – and it’s worth going to the cinema for that alone. For the first few minutes, not a single word is spoken here; the atmosphere is gradually built through stylized, slow shots of the dead planet over which the devastating sun constantly hovers. There is dirt, there is stench, dust, blood, sweat, ruins, and debris.
There are also wild gangs lurking in every corner for the next naive wanderers. Moreover, we don’t get much information, so the tension and uncertainty do not subside. For example, we don’t know where and when the action takes place (we know it’s America, but if it weren’t for the ending, it wouldn’t be so obvious; on the other hand, the year 2044 is already extraneous information), or what caused the war. We only know that one day we punched a hole in the sky, turning the earth into hell. Thanks to such techniques, supplemented by excellent acting, minimal action, and trance-like background music, the film is simply absorbing. Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end someday…
The second half of the film – this is not the first and probably not the last time I have to use this phrase. Unfortunately, it is a sad trend in cinema in recent years. It’s as if the creators had enough ideas and/or inspiration for the first half of the film, and the second part was treated casually. Maybe it doesn’t fully apply to the Hughes brothers, but it must be admitted that they did not excel in the second part of The Book of Eli. Yes, while the first half of this production is really good cinema, perfectly combining entertainment with something more, in the second segment, these proportions are disturbed, and the whole loses its edge, dangerously approaching another silly blockbuster. Instead of great fights, we suddenly get shootings, explosions, and chases (although it’s good that it was done without intrusive CGI) without rhyme or reason.
The main characters of The Book of Eli gradually start to act foolishly and make bizarre moves, and more and more scenes unintentionally amuse and irritate. The nail in the coffin is Mila Kunis. Admittedly, her beauty cannot be denied (although her smooth face fades in comparison to Jennifer Beals in the background), but she ruins almost the entire film, including the – otherwise cool but hardly credible – final resolution of the action. Not to mention that Miss Kunis is a top-class wooden actress, but she simply doesn’t fit here. Her character is incredibly irritating and literally destroys everything – it’s like she’s taken from another fairy tale, in the living sense of the word. And unfortunately, she comes out unscathed from all oppression.
I could also force myself to criticize the main theme of The Book of Eli – although it is not bad in itself, the creators awkwardly approach it, making some scenes look as if they were sponsored by the Bible Society (only the view of the book against the backdrop of the fluttering flag is missing – American, of course). And yet, it is not about a specific title or religion, but about faith and dedication as such. Besides, in this respect, the film is somewhat similar to The Road – in both these stories, faith is something that needs to be nurtured and protected no matter what, and it propels the characters on their journey. There is also the motif of the master and the student, but it is a marginal and very far-fetched matter. The brothers did not fully exploit the potential of both this thread and the entire story, which could have been much, much better.
However, The Book of Eli should not be written off – it’s good cinema, to some extent consistent, with undeniable atmosphere and a slight touch of self-irony. The Hughes brothers skillfully use the classics of the genre here (Mad Max), which they easily mix with a western style (lots of quotes and references) and add a bit of their own. And it’s not bad to watch (although quite predictably). I won’t say that I wasn’t disappointed because you can expect more from a project and creators of this caliber. But I also don’t remember the screening badly. What’s more, compared to most of today’s blockbusters, this title looks quite solid. Only, inside, you probably won’t find salvation.