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REVIEW: The Book Of Eli

Denzel Washington shines in this post-apocalyptic Western

Denzel Washington as Eli in "The Book of Eli."

Denzel Washington as Eli in "The Book of Eli."

  • Denzel Washington as Eli in "The Book of Eli."
  • Denzel Washington as Eli in "The Book of Eli."
  • Gary Oldman as Carnegie in "The Book of Eli."
  • Denzel Washington as Eli in "The Book of Eli."
  • Denzel Washington as Eli and Mila Kunis as Solara in "The Book of Eli."
  • Denzel Washington as Eli in "The Book of Eli."
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Why didn’t The Book of Eli get the love it deserved from the critics? Okay, there have been too many post-apocalyptic movies coming out (The Road a few months before Eli). And sure, this movie borrows from a lot (Mad Max, anyone?).

It’s just hard for me to dislike a film that starts with a cat being shot and a groovy Al Green song on the iPod. And what a creative way to tell a story. Just as Brick was film noir as told like a teen comedy, this is post-apocalyptic done as a Western. Good times.

Training Day, which I hated, seemed to thrill everyone (especially Julia Roberts, who went nuts when Denzel Washington won his Oscar). This movie is so much better, although the friends I saw it with, merely complained about the preachy religious aspects. I’m an agnostic who isn’t spiritual in any way, but I had no problem with this guy walking around with his Bible and occasionally sounding like a prophet. Or sounding and acting like Samuel Jackson in Pulp Fiction. And on the subject of Pulp Fiction, the first scene in Eli which shows Washington killing bad guys under a bridge, filmed all in silhouette, is so interesting I don’t doubt that Quentin Tarantino will steal it in the future.

Instead of watching this movie and thinking about how it’s similar to Kung Fu or a Twilight Zone episode, just enjoy this amazing ride, with an amazing cast. Especially Jennifer Beals (Flashdance) as the blind, tortured wife of the evil Gary Oldman (is there anyone better at playing the heavy?)

Our former local musician, Tom Waits, plays the bizarre electrician/pawn shop owner in a small town.

Malcolm McDowell shows up, with weirder hair than Waits, in an interesting spot.

Sure, Mila Kunis always has that voice that makes you think of That 70s Show, but you settle into her rather quickly.

Many critics are talking about the plot holes and, yes, there are a few. I’d just like to ask them what movies they’ve reviewed that haven’t had them. It’s even more interesting when you read what their complaints are. One talked about how odd it is that Eli’s iPod works 30 years into the future. Well, they cover how that’s possible twice in the movie.

Lots of other critics complained about how much ammunition everyone has in the future. Again, that was covered in an interesting and subtle way: One bad guy sees Eli’s gun and wonders if it’s loaded. His partner says, “The guns never are.”

Later in the film, the bad guys have an arsenal. Well, that’s not hard to believe, since they hire “hijackers” to go around stealing books and other items from the travelers they encounter.

What? It doesn’t sound like the “feel-good film of the year” yet? Well, trust me, it actually is uplifting.

You can avoid the few plot holes (like Eli saying he’s walked for 30 years looking for the West Coast), and just enjoy this fresh take on a tired topic that’s filmed in a very atmospheric and interesting way.

I had to see it twice to see if I could catch a few of the tricky twists.