There are two kinds of religious movies; one that push an agenda of religion, and one that uses faith as a plot device to tell a story. The Matrix in a way has this as Neo is some sort of Jesus whose birth and potential has been foretold. The other are movies the propaganda kind like Fireproof which tries to bring a message just on how good religion is. The first can be very movies while the latter kind mostly sucks and feel like the message is more important than the quality of the story. The Book Of Eli fits into the first category though it does have a firm religious undertone throughout the whole movie.
In an apocalyptic wasteland of what once was the United States walks Eli (Washington) with a mission. His goal is to bring a book to the east coast, which book is not mentioned but it becomes pretty quickly clear that this is the biggest bestseller of all time. Through dialogue it becomes clear that the apocalypse was something of a flash and that it has been thirty years since. Apparently Eli has been walking all this time and is guided by faith as he mentions a couple of times. He is also skilled in delivering passages from the Bible when he’s being attacked by hostiles and has extremely good fighting skills that come in handy at those moments.
Things change when he meets Carnegie (Oldman) who is looking for this book because he is well aware of its power. Carnegie rules a small town, from his office above a bar. He wants to expand his power to other town but needs the right words to do so. This is where the book comes in because that books holds the words that people will listen to as has been proven by thousands of years of history. From that moment on Carnegie will do everything to obtain this book from Eli.
The Hughes Brothers, who directed this movie, have done a good job in creating a movie with a religious subject but entertaining to people of all religion and no religion. Non-believer as I am I was entertained by this Mad Max-esque movie about a prophet-like character following his faith. The movie has a western feel to it and the is given a desaturated beige look. This helps in creating a convincing wasteland full of bridges that have been broken in the middle and roads filled with car wrecks. Denzel gives a performance we at this point expect from him and Gary Oldman turns in another chameleon performance as Carnegie. It was also fun to see Jennifer Beals again. She never had a really good career in movies but did shine in the TV-series The L-Word, I’m glad she’s in a high profile movie like this. She does a good job as Carnegie’s blind mistress.
Despite the heavy religious undertone in the movie it still was very entertaining, mostly due to the strong cast and the events that happen with Eli. The ending was a bit of a cheat on one hand, but the twist does enforce the religious faith theme in the movie. My guess is this will be long debated afterwards. I’m not sure if the movie is so good it deserves that, but I can understand why people want to talk about it. My opinion on Eli’s condition is that at first I didn’t even thought of him having said condition even though it turned out he used a tool most similar people do. I just though he had learned how to use that tool, not that he had that condition. But he probably does have that condition and it was faith who guides him, just like he says.