August 25, 2010

Justify My Netflix: The Book of Eli

(Like many Netflix customers, I too can get quite lax with the timely watching and returning of my movies, which of course defeats the entire purpose of having a flat-rate rental plan in the first place. To combat that, I am now writing standardized mini-reviews of each and every movie I end up watching through Netflix, both instantly and on DVD. Don't forget, all previous 'Justify My Netflix' reviews can be found on CCLaP's main movie page.)

The Book of Eli

Today's movie: The Book of Eli, 2010 (Amazon | IMDB | Netflix | Wikipedia)

Why I added it to my queue: Because this post-apocalyptic actioner received an unusual amount of praise earlier this year for being essentially a disposable gonzo B-pic, which is just exactly enough justification for me to add it to my Netflix queue.

The reality: Surprisingly great! And really, this makes a lot more sense once you realize that it was made by the Hughes Brothers, who this time I guess decided to keep their own profiles a lot more subsumed, after first becoming one of the most celebrated teams in the entire history of black cinema with their '90s hits Menace II Society and Dead Presidents, only to become pariahs in the world of comics just as quickly with their truly dismal 2001 adaptation of Alan Moore's From Hell. In this case, though, they get things almost exactly right, bringing a kind of Raimiesque over-the-top zeal to their videogame-feeling ultra-stylish tale of Mad-Max-style competing militias out in the desert of a post-disaster America, but then leaning heavily on a surprisingly smart and subdued script by Gary Whitta (his very first produced project), which proposes an astonishing idea at its center that's open to a whole lot of interpretation -- the idea that the Christian Bible was to blame for the World War Three that wrecked their world, and that almost every Bible in existence has been destroyed in the years since and Christianity almost entirely wiped out, with an extremely rare rogue copy of the book being secretly transported across the country by Denzel Washington's reluctant hero Eli for the purposes of hopeful good, even while Wild-West-style bigshot Carnegie (Gary Oldman) is attempting to steal it for the purposes of evil. That provides for a surprisingly weighty philosophical question (whether organized religion is ultimately good or bad for a society) to anchor what would otherwise be a pretty flighty script, which when combined with inventive special effects makes this a real winner (and seriously, all those first-person moving-bullet shots from when they destroy that elderly couple's house is freaking brilliant), and is way more than enough to make up for Mila Kunis's vapid, glassy-eyed performance (or in other words, business as usual for her), as Carnegie's concubine turned Washington's traveling companion. It comes highly recommended to all my fellow B-pic genre fans.

Strangest piece of trivia: Washington performed all his own hand-to-hand fight choreography.

Worth your time? Yes

Filed by Jason Pettus at 9:41 AM, August 25, 2010. Filed under: Movies | Reviews |