Sunday, January 17, 2010
POWERFUL BUT STILL AVERAGE
THE BOOK OF ELI (C)
This is the latest movie from the always great Denzel Washington. It also stars the talent of Gary Oldman, Michael Gambon, and Mila Kunis. I would like to take a moment to say "Oh how much I love Mila Kunis!" She did a very good job with her character Solara but also looked magnificent while doing it. Even in the very un-glamorous world the story is set in she still looked like a million bucks (Hollywood right?). Mila proved she has some acting chops, and with performances like this she will continue to get lucrative roles with stars like Denzel.
The Book of Eli is set in the distant post apocalyptic future. Almost all life has been destroyed by "the flash" or a nuclear bomb or something along those lines. All the fresh water from rivers and lakes, trees and other plant life, as well as most animals has been obliterated by this unknown destructive force. In societies haste to place blame for the cause of the catastrophic event they destroyed many of the world's books, almost in an effort to bring culture back to the pre-literate days. These elements are unclear because the script poorly describes most of the background of this story.
The main character Eli (Denzel) is resolute on protecting a leather bound book he is destined to deliver to the west coast. The antagonist is a man named Carnegie (Oldman) who is a book collector and ring leader of a small village. When Carnegie is introduced it is comical to see he is reading the biography of Mussolini; most likely trying to learn the methods of a dictatorship.
Carnegie discovers Eli has a very rare and precious book and decides he must have it for himself, no matter what it takes. After a standoff Eli escapes the village and the chase is on. Eli soon realizes he is not alone. Solara runs away to try and live free of the control of Carnegie and his puppets. The two travelers bond as friends as they attempt to avoid the minions of Carnegie and survive on the treacherous road.
Without the gifted acting from Denzel and Oldman in the two lead roles this movie would have fared far worse. When the two were on screen together and exchanging dialogue the audience could get a real sense for the tension between them. As usual Denzel had a commanding screen presence that draws your eyes like a fight on Jersey Shore.
The direction by the Hughes brothers and their editing in this movie was exceptional. The best part of the entire movie was after a fateful gunshot pierces the anxious atmosphere and plunges into a character's body. The motion slows down, lightning strikes down from the sky in the background, and the sound is muted except for the resonating blast ringing from the gun. The directors employ the use of gratifying slow motion shots a lot, but sometimes too often. Too much of a good thing sometimes comes out the other end as overkill.
The cinematography circles our hero Eli and uses extreme close ups on characters faces to convey emotions often without even a spoken word. Denzel's demeanor in this film is quiet and soft spoken; but when faced with danger is an unstoppable adversary. The camera work assists in showing the two sides of this marching warrior and his resolve to complete his arduous journey. The use of strictly gray and dark tones to intensify the desolate landscape plunges the viewers into this world with seemingly no life or hope.
Overall, The Book of Eli was executed well on many levels and missed on many more. The story captures your attention early and the swift killing of roadside thieves pulls you in even farther. The wonder of how the world ended up this way makes the audience crave discussion of events past. As the story evolves you realize the narrative is paper thin and so are most of it's supporting characters. The script written by first time screen writer Gary Whitta has some great dialogue, but we need some background Gary!
Denzel generates momentum for the story but then the rest of the screenplay grinds his effort to a crawl. If you love Denzel, this is another role where he is the memorizing. Unfortunately the rest of the project does not follow suit.
Seen it? Any thoughts?
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