Sunday, October 3, 2010

Book of Eli

This movie is long overdue for me. I meant to see it when it came out because it seemed so interesting--different than movies out lately. I got the opportunity to watch it last night, and it was extremely thought-provoking. I will flesh out my thoughts here.

Eli, played by Denzel Washington, exists in a post-apocolyptic world that has experienced "the flash," something that destroyed most of the human population and its surroundings. Eli encounters savages who kill for small tokens in a desolate countryside. He seems to be somewhere in the American west. He carries around a desirable book that all want to covet. At first, we just watch Eli get around a countryside just trying to survive, but we soon learn that Eli can outfight large groups of people and is a strong presence.

Eli makes his way to a nearby town where he soon encounters a small faction who watch him murder a man who tries to rob him while in a bar. Eli proves his fighting skills by taking down many men within this bar, and he is brought to the attention of the man in charge of this faction or townspeople. He tries to persuade Eli to work for him since he seems to be a talented, smart, and aged man. Older people are assets during this time because they knew what life was like before the flash, almost an unimaginable time.

Our antagonist here locks Eli in a room but tries to seduce him to stay with a warm bed, a lot of food and water, and a lady to entertain him. This lady, Solara, happens to be Carnegie's, the antagonist's, lover's daughter. This causes tension between the two. Solara and Eli talk but he will not take her. They end up talking a lot and Solara develops respect for Eli. Eli then tells Solara that he heard a voice that told him just to go west. He needed to deliver the words of the book to a deserving people. He would be protected until he arrived there, but this was his life's mission.

Eli escapes in the morning before his secret of his "book" gets out to Carnegie who then desperately wants to find him. Carnegie comes head to head with Eli in the center of the town and a shoot-out ensues when Eli refuses to give up his book. Eli shoots a lot of people, including Carnegie who gets shot in the leg. Eli escapes and Solara follows into the desert.

Eli tries to abandon Solara, as he thinks she will only get herself harmed when she joins him. Eli has to save Solara as she is assaulted by ongoers, who he kills. They run into an old couple who tries to trick them into coming into the home, only for them to kill and eat them, until Carnegie and his men find them in the house. A massive shoot-out occurs, and the old couple is killed. Solara and Eli survive but are dragged outside. They put Solara at gunpoint until Eli will hand over the book. He does. Once it's done, Eli is shot in the stomach and abandoned.

In their SUVs, Solara strangles the driver and stabs the other man there, a man who wanted to have her as his trophy wife. She throws a grenade at the second SUV and takes off. Carnegie lets her go; he has what he needs--his beloved book. Carnegie believes that he can gain ultimate power with this book. All will follow him when he has it and can deliver its word. So, he wants it for something negative.

Solara finds Eli and drives him to the Golden Gate Bridge. They abandon the car on the bridge and proceed to take a boat over to Alcatraz, where a small civilization lives and is trying to restore the world to goodness. Eli and Solara pass in, and Eli can deliver the message of the book because he has it memorized. Eli spends his last days alive reciting the book from memory as it is copied. Eli dies, and the world finally has the written word of the Bible.

Meanwhile, Carnegie discovers that the book is locked. It takes him some time to get someone to open it for him, but once he does, he discovers that the book is written in braille.

SPOILER: The shock is that Eli is, thus, blind. This is why he wears the sunglasses that he does. Everything then seems almost impossible for a blind man to do. Travel across the country. Kill many people, especially when attacked by multiple people and snipers on rooftops. Kill for food, birds and cats. Escape. Etc. This was a HUGE surprise to me! This didn't even click to me until after I saw the movie. Being blind almost enhances the meaning because it really drives home the point that he was fulfilling God's will, and with faith, he fulfilled his assignment. It gives hope in a supreme being. Very, very powerful stuff.

Solara takes off from Alcatraz to go back home. They make her look, walk, and talk like Eli as she leaves, almost like she is the one to take his place. Carnegie is slowly dying as his leg wound becomes infected, becoming smelly from gangrene. The whole town has gone to hell and his lover (who is also blind and will not read the book to him) becomes overcomed with joy as she knows he will meet his end.

End of Spoiler.

So much to talk about! The biblical references and ideas are overwhelming. He communicates with God and has a purpose. He needs to deliver the word of the Lord in order to save the world. Without knowing the word, people go literally mad, killing one another and losing all respect for themselves and others. It's interesting to ponder why all books were destroyed before the flash.

What was the flash? Was it human-created or natural phenomenon? Why or how did some survive?

It's crazy to see what happens when there are no authority figures, resources, or organized society. People can kill at whim. There are no consequences. You need to find everything you need, and if you're sick, you might not have ways to treat yourself. You can't travel very far because there isn't transportation. It makes you wonder how some people come to power because they really don't have anything to hold them up to that authority. Very, very bizarre. Not something I'd want to deal with.

This film would be very interesting to compare to The Road. They are both apocolyptic recent films (even though The Road was a novel first), and both touch on similar ideas or resorts that humans go to once faced with "the end of human society." Yes, it's sci fi, but it sure is damn interesting and rich to discuss.

So what do you think of The Book of Eli?