The thing I find with Denzel Washington is he exudes earnestness. Pretty much any film he has been in he’s earnest. In Cry Freedom he was an earnest Steve Biko, in Crimson Tide he was earnest Commander Hunter, in Training Day (bloody great film BTW) he was an earnest Lt. Alonzo. Sometimes he plays an earnestly good guy, sometimes he plays an earnestly bad guy, but earnest he is.
So we come to the Book of Eli, guess what? He is earnest. The film is a bit of a curiosity. Denzel’s character, Eli, can best be described as a mash up of the post-apocalyptic ruthlessness of Mel Gibson in Mad Max, the bible quoting menace of Samuel L Jackson in pulp fiction and the determined spiritual mission of Elijah Wood in Lord of the Rings. Bizarre isn’t it
Eli was a man living in an America reduced to rubble in the aftermath of a nuclear war, He was commanded by a higher power to head west where he will deliver a book, the last bible in the world and it holds the key to man’s redemption.
Eli is not just an iterant bible nutter he is also a ruthless fighting machine, as an assortment of villains find out as they are ruthlessly dispatched. His main nemesis Carnegie, is played by Gary Oldman, Mayor of a town along the route going west who realises the power of the book and wants it for himself.
Carnegie initially entices Eli to stay in his residence with hospitality but Eli realises the danger and after a lot of mayhem escapes taking along Solara (Mila Kunis) a girl who lives in Carnegie’s home. Carnegie chases him down to a homestead in the middle of the desert where the showdown happens.
The homestead was occupied by an elderly couple, and lady of the house was none other than Frances De La Tour, who some may know as Mrs Jones from the 70’s TV comedy Rising Damp. She was a bit of a man eater in the show back then, and it seems not much has changed as in this film she was also a man-eater except in a very literal sense. Her husband and she are machine gun wielding cannibals.
They team up with Eli to try and thwart Carnegie attempts to steal the bible. It all goes wrong Eli is shot and left for dead, the elderly couple killed, the bible stolen and Solara seized. Had the bad guys won? Get real, this is Hollywood.
The Bible was in braille and useless to Carnegie, it turns out Eli was blind. Carnegie died from the injuries he had sustained. Solara escaped went back to homestead and revived a badly injured Eli and together they journeyed to San Francisco which apparently is the Promised Land.
It turns out Eli had memorised the entire bible and he lived long enough to recite its entire content to a commune of monks with a printing press who produced thousands of bibles and presumably saved the world in the process.
I said it was bizarre.