I've been looking forward to seeing this movie since I saw its panel at ComicCon last year. It had this unique look to it; plus after twenty plus years of quality acting Denzel Washington gets to be an action star, and Gary Oldman gets to play a villain again, which is always a welcome addition to any movie. However, what I didn't expect was for this movie to be more than an action movie - it also delivers a powerful and moving message. This was one of the rare instances where the crowd exits the theater in silence, like they just heard Don Draper give an ad presentation. "The Book of Eli" was a pleasant surprise (along with "The Hangover," "Dexter," and Robert Downey Jr. all winning Golden Globes), and warrants many repeat viewings either in theaters or on DVD.
"The Book of Eli" takes place in California 50 years after a massive war "tore a hole through the sky." The world is ugly (like Mariah Carey's dress at the Golden Globes) and barren (like the Cowboy's offense against the Vikings). Only those who are older remember how to read and there are very few survivors. One of those survivors is Denzel Washington's Eli, a mysterious loner who feels he is charged with taking a mysterious book out west. He doesn't know where he's going but he knows that it is important. We see his daily routine of hunting whatever he can find for food, reading the book, and listening to music on his decaying iPod.
He then comes across a town run by Gary Oldman's Carnegie, a man who is devious and evil (think of him as incoming USC coach Lane Kiffin, only with more intelligence and credentials). Carnegie is searching for a book that he believes holds the secret to bringing back the community structure that used to exist before the war. After seeing Eli fight, Carnegie wants him to work for him and Eli refuses. Carnegie then attempts to force his step-daughter Solara to seduce him, which is equally unsuccessful. Solara (Mila Kunis - "Forgetting Sarah Marshall," "Family Guy," "That 70's Show") is inspired by what a good person Eli turns out to be and decides to follow him as he continues his quest. Carnegie does not take Eli's refusal lying down.
I loved this movie and am surprised that it was released so early in the year, considering that January is usually garbage time for the movie industry. The action scenes are awesome (Denzel's fight scenes were done by him in one take by the way); it is beautifully shot; and the movie is allowed to have a slow pace in order to actually build characters and the story. Denzel proves time and time again that if he picks a movie, it is not because of a paycheck. He really invests himself in this character, as does Oldman, who delivers another fun performance. Kunis, too, shows us that she has an amazing future. I highly encourage everyone to see this (because how many times can you possibly see "Avatar?") as you will be surprised as it hits on multiple levels.
If this doesn't sound enticing or you're stuck with the kids, then there is Jackie Chan's "The Spy Next Door" (it will make you forget he used to be one of the greatest action stars of all time. Not in a good way.). Also, there is a movie that I absolutely wish I could've covered last year but never got a chance to see. Please, if you can rent "The Hurt Locker" it is probably one of the best war movies I've seen in a long time and is sure to be a frontrunner at the Oscars this year.
Thank you for reading and stay tuned as I battle some angels in "The Legion".
- By Chauncey Telese
Remember you can see these and other fine films at your local Edwards. Click here for local showtimes.