Movie thoughts: the Book of Eli

I went with a few friends last night to see The Book of Eli, and I've got to say that I was pleasantly surprised.

To be sure, this isn't a deep movie--even compared to something as pop-philosophy oriented as the Matrix. The comparisons with that film would really only cover the post-pockyclypse setting and stylized fight scenes (Both of which Book pulls off just as well as Matrix did, though without as much of the wirework and kung-fu, focusing on blade combat instead. Those whose tastes in celluloid violence differ from mine might not be so impressed.)

Instead, I'd compare this film--the first three quarters of it, anyway--to a Flannery O'Connor story. American Gothic at its finest, with a hint of "post-nuclear gunslinger" for good measure. Details are everywhere: things like economies and social structures. (Though I must say that for a desert world without chapstick everyone seems to have well-moisturized lips. Is cat oil really all he says it is?)

The writing isn't exactly top-drawer, certainly the ending was a bit of a cop-out (Much moreso that Stephen King's Dark Tower, which I finished last week), but then this is the first time one of Gary Whitta's scripts has actually been picked up by Hollywood. I remember when he was editor-in-chief of "PC Gamer" magazine, and it's good to see one of his ideas finally make it to the screen. (His Tomb Raider would have been far better than the one Paramount made.) What's good about the writing is very good. Solid dialog (for an action movie) and a depopulated world that just hangs on to vestigial humanity.

The acting is top notch (for a genre film... [cough cough]) Gary Oldman once again fooled me for a good five minutes--I never recognize him immediately; I always think to myself in a disconnected way "oh, this character actor is good, I wonder what else he's been in?" and simultaneously "isn't Gary Oldman supposed to be in this movie?" Denzel Washington plays, of course, Denzel-Washington-with-a-gun, but it works. Michael Gambon and Frances de la Tour have a brilliant cameo, though they're upstaged by Tom Waits.

In short, if you like post-apocalyptic stories about gunslingers who walk the wastes, this is an excellent film to go see, speak-truth-thankee-sai. If you like spaghetti westerns, it's a must-see. If you like stories about faith and humanity and the danger of setting out on "a mission from God"... well, there's something here to chew on. Like O'Connor's stories, it's hard to say that there's a point to the story; mostly this is an interesting world to live in for a few hours, with some very scary and some very interesting people to meet.

4 comments:

Michael said...

"Details are everywhere: things like economies and social structures."

Details, man, details. What kind of economies and social structures? :)

Jack said...

Well, I'm trying to avoid analyzing the film so people who read my review can still go into it without preconceived ideas, but since you asked...

The idea that water will become a key commodity in the future, and that you'll have water-despots controlling everything else, is nothing new. What this film adds to that mix is an element of ideological supply and demand. So you've got a water despot whose cronies are scouring the wasteland for books, and not because books are "valued" in some bourgeois way, but because they (well, some of them) contain powerful words. What's more dangerous than an atomic bomb? How about a book that can be used to inspire a nation to war?

Emily said...

LOL @ the Gary Oldman reaction. I do that, too.

Philip Gilbert said...

Frances de la Tour?, Rising Damp, Rigsby, ovaries like bren guns, that Frances?