Movie review: Denzel Washington travels bleak road in 'Book of Eli'
Denzel Washington seems to be following the same cracked and broken highway in the same westerly direction across the same bleak, post-apocalyptic landscape in “The Book of Eli” that Viggo Mortensen navigated in the recent film adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road.”
But while the latter was based on a sobering, Pulitzer Prize-winning literary work about a man protecting his son on a journey through a world of hopeless ruin, the Hughes Brothers’ vision of the day after tomorrow is a little more optimistic and a lot more fun to watch, having been written by a comic book author (Gary Whitta) and featuring a bad-to-the-bone protagonist (Washington) safeguarding what’s believed to be the last existing Bible as he walks west to deliver the coveted tome to an entity or entities unknown even to him.
It’s been 30 years since the last war ended civilization as it once was known. Humankind has regressed to a primitive level, the scorched earth yields no sustenance, and decent food and clean water (even shampoo and matches) are scarce essentials to fight and die for. The mysterious, Bible-toting Eli seeks only peace in his divine determination to obey “the Voice” that told him where to find the Bible and where to take it, but when anyone gets in his way, there’s a sawed off shotgun and a shiny machete sharing space with the Good Book in his backpack, and he knows how to use them with deadly precision, along with his head, fists and feet.
Consequently there are spectacular Clint Eastwood/Quentin Tarantino-style gunfights and martial arts slug-and-slice fests — masterfully choreographed by veteran stunt coordinator Jeff Imada (“The Bourne Ultimatum,” “Fight Club”) — whenever loner Eli is confronted with gangs of roving cannibals and thieves, or when he runs afoul of a self-anointed despot named Carnegie (the great Gary Oldman, darkly funny and full of frightening, fine-tuned fierceness).
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