After a few duds at the cinema to start 2010, I'm glad to say that The Book of Eli delivers a well conceived, highly stylised and realistic apocalyptic vision of the future, and best of all I liked it.
The movie has amazing visuals and the opening sequence in the forest with the cat really does set the scene for the whole premise of the film. Denzel Washington is a survivor in a post-apocalyptic world on an apparent 30-year mission to deliver the last Bible to those in the 'West' of America.
Along the way we see a credible looking future where the Earth is a scorched wasteland, as the result of a war and the 'Big Flash'. He has to fight against a lawless civilization where it's every man for himself and failure could mean you end up as someone else's dinner.
The always incredibly earnest Denzel Washington makes for a convincing lone heroic figure, especially in light of the brutal and literally cutthroat world he travels and even though there's violence aplenty in the movie, I didn't find it overly gory (beheadings aside).
Mila Kunis is great as his unwanted sidekick and it's refreshing that you feel that she's actually in jeopardy. She also doesn't unrealistically get trained to become a super kick-ass kung fu fighting master during the course of the movie.
Granted it's not without its flaws or a fantastically logical film by any means. There's a lot you quite literally have to take on faith (a core theme in the movie by the way), but it is an enjoyable romp with it's own unique perspective of the future (even though at times it does borrow heavily from Mad Max and several other post-apocalypse films).
I'm just glad they didn't resort to full on zombies in this movie, as frankly I'm tiring of them as a plot device in films at the moment.
Usually one to shy away from religion of any sort, I like how it alludes to the fact that religion may have been cause of the war and downfall of mankind and that you have these two diametrically opposed viewpoints.
Denzel as 'Eli' is this man of peace who believes the book holds the last hope for humanity, whilst Gary Oldman (sometimes heavy-handedly) perceives it as an incredible weapon, because religion throughout history has also been used to command power.
The washed out, sun-bleached visual look of the film is effective, as sight and blindness is key plot point, from the 'Big Flash', to blind characters in the story (whether from birth or as implied as a result of a nuclear holocaust).
They are interesting themes, but I never felt you were totally clubbed over the head with them during the movie. At its heart it's still a great big action movie (almost like a video game in some ways) and the 'surprise' ending is pretty predictable once you get there, but it still keeps you engrossed until the end (even though it kind of looses steam towards the finale).
I'm interested to see whether the filmmakers thing there's mileage in the world they've created, especially in light of Mila Kunis's characters transformation by the end of the movie, as it certainly seems that way.
Finally can I also say I loved Frances de la Tour's balmy cannibalistic farmer's wife character, especially in the scene when the song plays on the record player.
I give The Book of Eli a three *** star rating and think the almost two hour movie is well worth a trip to the cinema for some futuristic fun.
But don't just take my word, go and 'see' it for yourself...