Thursday, 21 January 2010

The Book of Eli

It's a curious, yet frequent, quirk of Hollywood to release films of the same ilk close to one another. Barely two weeks ago, the gloomy, grimy yet inspiring The Road restored faith in humanity amid the squalor of the apocalypse. Now we have The Book of Eli trudging along in its dust, kind of like a wannabe, chav cousin, all tooled up to the nines with nowhere to go.

Denzel Washington walks the long road to nowhere and apparently has been doing so for 30 years, ever since a sketchily described disaster, in his words, 'tore a hole in the sky'. That's all the backdrop we get - and that line of dialogue comes half-way through. Fair enough, it's an act of faith asking us to invest in a vague scenario, but it drains the film of credibility.

His wandering Eli is trekking west (how has it taken him 30 years?), carrying with him a tome that villainous despot Gary Oldman is very interested in once Washington ambles into town. His Carnegie is a formidably literate adversary, more so than his henchmen and oppressed townsfolk, and sees the book as a powerful propaganda tool.

Which begs the first of many questions - why doesn't Carnegie simply create his own book to control his people? It serves to remind that Allen and Albert Hughes' first effort since 2001's From Hell works best on a metafictional plane; look closely at the dots and it falls apart. Neither successful as a Christian tract (yawn) or a Mad Max style dystopia (the onslaught of greys and browns rob the film of any vitality), it's in desperate need of some vigour.

Likewise, Washington is charismatic but bleached of character, as drab as the sky above him. Oldman meanwhile is a refreshingly intelligent villain but given little to do. It's a bizarre turn of events when two British thesps, Michael Gambon and Frances de la Tour, lend the film its sole spark of life and take part in its only noteworthy action scene. When tea drinking old crocks are more enjoyable than your hero, you know you have problems. The apocalypse should be many things...but boring isn't one of them.

1 comment:

  1. I suspected as much, although to be honest I'd see this film just for Gambon and De la Tour - even if they are in only once scene I'm sure it's brilliant.

    Re: the 30 years thing: - I think American's think their country is bigger than it actually is...Forrest Gump ran across it twice in 2 years don't forget!!