The world is having a bad day. It’s been having the same bad day since nigh on 30 years before, when some folks got into an argument about religion. One thing led to another, the sky was opened and the sun was let in at maximum volume. Now America looks like an Aussie post-apocalyptic movie from the 80s, just with more money tossed at it. And a li'l Segio Leone thrown in for spice.
It’s like The Road, but with more warm ’n’ fuzzy. Which ain’t saying much. Motorcycle gangs are still raping and murdering for entertainment, and some folks are eating other folks. Others occupy their time maintaining battlewagons bristling with ghetto armor. No one rides a bicycle. Even in the post-apocalypse, everyone seems to think that bikes are silly. Silly America. So everyone else just huddles in the doorways of ruined buildings looking miserable.
Like this review, The Book of Eli takes way too much time getting around to the story. The story here is that we've got ourselves some desert despot who wants some wandering dude’s Bible. Dude’s name is Eli, and he doesn’t want to hand it over. It’s his Bible. Granted, after the war everyone left who wasn’t blinded by the sun gathered up all the Bibles and burned them, so Eli’s Bible is the only one left. Seems pretty selfish to keep the only copy of The Word to oneself and not spread it, but that’s just the kind of guy Eli is. He’s also the kind of guy who can filet a room full of hard cases with only his bad-assed self and one nasty-looking sword.
He’s a polite sort, though, when he’s not killing people over his Bible. Eli’s played by Denzel Washington, so you know he’s a nice guy at heart. And the despot is played by Gary Oldman, who's introduced reading a biography of Mussolini, just so you know what he's all about. Which means plenty of scenery chewing until he gets his hands on that Bible. And being Oldman, his plans aren’t nice.
But mostly Eli walks. Walks, walks and walks. It takes fifteen minutes for Eli just to wander up to the story, moving in slow motion and with high-end music soaring. After the story gets rolling, sometimes people get in his way and asses get kicked. Despite that, there isn't any real conflict. Sure, people keep trying to take Eli's book away from him and he keeps messing their shit up for trying, but... it's a book. Yeah, a very rare one, and with some amount of power. But it's a book. And as the big, goofy reveal shows...
... not one worth dying over. Actually, since he had it memorized all along, it was really, really stupid to die over it. And the bit about him actually being blind entered everything into unnecessary silliness. Served absolutely no purpose. Didn't mesh with what came before, either. Not very New Testament either, when you get down to it. No turning the other cheek and blessed peacemakers in Eli's book.
SPOILER OVER, OKAY?
... and then the story is over, too. Well, sorta. After that the movie keeps wandering along with a voiceover that explains everything to the slower members of the audience.
It’s a nice-looking picture, though. In an aggressively ugly sort of way. Sort of like a spaghetti western with too much sauce. The movie almost seems to be embarrassed to be revolving around a pedestrian Mad Max with a Bible. Or maybe the directors were trying to make the padding look good.
What with the big reveal at the end, and trimmed down to an hour, the film'd feel right at home as one of those old hour-long episodes of The Twilight Zone.