The Book of Eli movie poster
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The Book of Eli movie poster

The Book of Eli Movie Review

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It's been nearly ten years since we last heard from the Hughes brothers, but they're back with the religiously themed apocalyptic action-thriller The Book of Eli, starring Denzel Washington. The movie looks great and features yet another good performance from the A-list actor, but the movie gets bogged down by its lack of a strong plot.

In The Book of Eli, Washington plays the title character - Eli, not Book - a mysterious traveler who wanders the wastelands of America in a post-apocalyptic future. He is a religious man, but he is also extremely lethal when it comes to self defense. He also is in possession of the last King James Bible on the planet, something that a man named Carnegie (Gary Oldman) covets. After Eli enters Carnegie's hoodlum-run town, he finds himself at odds with the man, and with a beautiful straggler (Mila Kunis) in tow.

The first half of The Book of Eli is incredibly effective. The Hughes brothers, who haven't done a movie since 2001's From Hell, seemingly had a lot of fun with the movie, as it's full of some beautiful (albeit ravaged) scenery, slow-motion shots and long, brooding sequences. The movie presents a bleak yet compelling setting and solid set up for potential action to come. A few short but entertaining action scenes confirm that the brothers may be on to something.

Unfortunately, as the story progresses, it becomes clear that there isn't much story at all. That may not be entirely fair, but don't expect a picture that builds suspense to some massive climax. The Hughes brothers set the scene, but then fail to carry through. The result: a movie that slowly transforms from an engaging cult classic to a boring quasi-drama. The picture's dramatic turn is unwelcome, as the movie looks, feels and was marketed as an action movie. It becomes increasingly talky as it goes along, and lacks any form of a satisfying climax.

The minor twist that is revealed in the final minutes is clever, though it's not nearly enough to save the picture from itself. The final shot in the movie is wholly unnecessary, too, as it seems to be desperately begging for a sequel.

Washington delivers yet another fine performance; though he won't win any awards, he should be commended for his most subdued role in years. It's nice to see him do something other than what everyone is used to seeing him do. Kunis, though she has looked out of place in past action films, holds her own very well and looks good doing it, too.

The Book of Eli is an okay movie and features some excellent film work by the Hughes brothers, but it slowly devolves into a disappointment. Its religious overtones are not so much the issue as much as they overwhelm all levels of suspense or excitement that were established in the earlier parts of the movie. Ultimately, The Book of Eli will make for an adequate rental but not much more than that.

Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.

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