The Book of Eli


Now that’s what we call a Bible basher…

The Book of Eli review

The post-apocalyptic landscape that Denzel Washington’s solitary traveller wanders across in this sombre actioner looks so familiar you half expect him to meet Viggo Mortensen and Kodi Smit-McPhee coming in the opposite direction. Instead the titular Eli comes across Carnegie (Gary Oldman), the only guy in this ravaged future America to recognise the significance of the clasped Bible he has in his possession. “It’s not a book – it’s a weapon!” his tinpot despot hisses at his underlings after Denzel strolls into his desert town looking for water. But Eli is not about to surrender his good book so easily. He’s a man on a mission, and he has a really big knife...

With its religious overtones and unabashedly Christian hero, The Book Of Eli has more on its mind than your average end-of-the-world flick. Strip away its bloated sense of self-importance, though, and you are left with a reheated spaghetti western with a garnish of Mad Max mayhem. Denzel – first seen offing an emaciated cat in what some may read as payback for Fallen – exudes nobility as the driven Eli but is a real drag to be around, as Carnegie’s hot stepdaughter Solara (Mila Kunis) discovers after she decides to follow him into the wilderness. With its deserted cars, decaying skeletons and marauding bands of unwashed scavengers, meanwhile, said wilderness has little new to offer, especially to those who caught The Road, Carriers or I Am Legend.

What the Hughes brothers’ first picture since 2001’s From Hell needs is a bit of leavening humour to make its portentousness easier to swallow. Indeed, were it not for Michael Gambon and Frances de la Tour’s screwball cameos as a pair of ageing survivalists who give Eli and Solara succour and Malcolm McDowell’s uncredited appearance as a dotty librarian, this would have all the zip of a Sunday-morning sermon.



For all its knife scraps, shoot-outs, big bangs and fisticuffs, Denzel’s latest is a sluggish affair weighed down by its lofty themes. It also comes with a preposterous twist and a paying-the-rent performance from Oldman that’s pure cured ham.

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User Reviews

    • doyoumi

      Jan 16th 2010, 17:47


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    • ChristoLaurent

      Jan 16th 2010, 21:32


      I'm rather upset as I thought this was going to be based on the memoirs of the character Eli Duckett from Last Of The Summer Wine

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    • Siban1982

      Feb 3rd 2010, 21:50


      Whilst I agree with the majority of totalfilms review, this isn't a film to be taken seriously and without the twist it is certainly deserving of 2 stars but with it, there's a slight freshness about the film that doesn't happen often with blockbusters but is very welcome here. Also I quite liked the dark and distorted music and subtleness to the decapitations :)

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    • SaleX

      Jun 17th 2010, 14:47


      Owing to the fact that I did not have exactly high expectations of this film, I was rather pleasantly surprised that it was actually a film with a deeper meaning and a film which was fun to watch.The somewhat thin plot is saved by excellent performances: by that I primarily think of Gary Oldman who is irresistibly nasty as the power seeking despot and who steals the show by the somewhat half-hearted Washington. Another surprise is Mila Kunis, who, unlike in 'Max Payne', actually acts and has an interesting role.Another highlight are cameos of Gambon and de la Tour who as cannibalistic American hillbillies bring a breath of comedy to this desolate flick.The film also has many fun references which make it even more enjoying, such as the sign with Busch in the arid desertland (a cle to the reason of the disaster,made me laugh out loud), or burning of Brown's 'The DaVinci Code', or the quoting of Johnny Cash. Action sequences are amazing, whether it is Washington beating up a group of 15+ angry guests in a tavern,or the bit with the cars.But this is not a film without problems:it is not explained in great detail how and why did this apocalypse happen (though we may draw our own conclusions), and we don't know much about the past of Washington's and Oldman's characters,not to mention all the Bible quotations.This put to side and reading between the lines, this is actually more a story about the eternal theme of faith in oneself and mankind than the story about religion itself, which is during the film more than once described as oppressive and power-based (and represented as such in Oldman's character). Maybe not the best film of all times, but it does have some fundamental themes explored in it, and the extraordinary performances make it rather interesting and fun to watch.Not a waste of time.

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