Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIV, No. 3
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
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For more movie summaries, see Kam’s Kapsules.

THE LONGEST JOURNEY BEGINS WITH THE FIRST STEP: Eli (Denzel Washington) is on a longer than 30 year trek across America — whose infrastructure has been almost completely destroyed by a catastrophic war several decades earlier — in order to deliver the world’s last remaining Bible to a man living in what is left of San Francisco.

The Book of Eli: Denzel Washington Stars in Post-Apocalyptic Adventure

Kam Williams

It is 2043, several decades after the war to end all wars which has left America a vast violent wasteland that is devoid of infrastructure. As a result of the catastrophe, civilization has turned into a desperate lawless society where life is cheap, and a man can lose his life over a glass of water, a piece of food, or even nothing at all.

In the case of Eli (Denzel Washington), the only item for which he is willing to die is the thick leather-bound book he keeps carefully wrapped in cloth and tucked away inside his worn satchel. The tome has a telltale cross on the cover and Eli occasionally pronounces scripture-like aphorisms such as “Do for others more than you do for yourself,” while carefully hiding the book from view.

For the past 30 years Eli has been walking westward in order to deliver the precious package to a mysterious man who lives in what used to be San Francisco. As it turns out, this is the only Bible left in the world, and the man he’s searching for has a printing press.

Since this peace-loving warrior knows that the sacred text represents the world’s last hope for Christianity, he is willing to fight anyone who might try to prevent him from reaching his destination. And when he’s trekking some 3,000 miles on foot through a gauntlet of marauding gangs and bloodthirsty miscreants, Eli frequently has to put aside his inclinations to turn the other cheek in order to protect the precious Bible.

Directed by the Hughes Brothers, The Book of Eli is a grim and gruesome post-apocalyptic story that is reminiscent of another recently released movie, The Road. This film, however, is imbued with religious overtones that are designed to appeal to Born Again people.

Eli proves himself to be a righteous person, especially after the plot thickens when Carnegie (Gary Oldman), who is Satan incarnate, learns of what’s in the knapsack. Will Carnegie and his cronies be able to gain possession of the Bible before Eli reaches what’s left of San Francisco? That becomes the pivotal question that is at the heart of the movie.

Denzel Washington turns in a trademark charismatic performance that is bolstered by appropriately monochromatic cinematography. Nonetheless, the film is surprisingly unengaging. Even the inclusion of a mother-daughter team of beautiful women-in-distress, played by Jennifer Beals and Mila Kunis, didn’t help. Maybe it’s the fact that the resolution, which this critic won’t dare to spoil, is a multidenominational cop-out.

Jesus, along with a bunch of other prophets, is the answer.

Fair (1 star). Rated R for profanity and graphic violence. Running time: 118 Minutes. Distributor: Warner Brothers.

For more movie summaries, see Kam’s Kapsules.

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