CATEGORIES Reviews
Are we really heading for the apocalypse? Hollywood seems to think so.

In the last few years we've been witness to such dissertations on the end of the world as the 'Matrix' and 'Terminator' films, '12 Monkeys,' 'Children of Men,' 'District 12,' and most recently, '2012' and 'The Road' to name a few (and this doesn't even include such plague films as '28 Days Later,' 'I Am Legend,' and the 'Resident' Evil' series). Not to mention the granddaddy of them all, the 'Mad max' outings.

Now add to the list 'The Book of Eli,' directed by the Hughes brothers (Albert and Allen) and starring Denzel Washington and Gary Oldman. The story takes place some 30 years after the final war that has turned the Earth in an ash-plagued wasteland. Washington plays a solitary man -- a kind-of Clint Eastwood "Man With No Name in the Apocalypse" -- who walks across what was once America clutching a book that he hopes will bring hope and salvation to what remains of the world. He's a warrior who won't let anyone get in his way, or steal his book. That includes a man named Carnegie (Oldman in another quite evil role), a self-appointed despot of a makeshift town of thieves and gunmen, who lives with his wife (Jennifer Beals) and adopted daughter (Mila Kunis). He's fascinated by Eli and wants the power of the book for his own.

The critics have been mixed about 'Eli,' chastising the film for taking itself too seriously or for its spiritual themes, or for its lack of "kick-ass" action or for stereotypical characters. And then there's those critics who like all of the above. One thing they all pretty much agree upon: Washington and Oldman are at their peaks.

Read what the critics have to say. Are we really heading for the apocalypse? Hollywood seems to think so.

In the last few years we've been witness to such dissertations on the end of the world as the 'Matrix' and 'Terminator' films, '12 Monkeys,' 'Children of Men,' 'District 12,' and most recently, '2012' and 'The Road' to name a few (and this doesn't even include such plague films as '28 Days Later,' 'I Am Legend,' and the 'Resident' Evil' series). Not to mention the granddaddy of them all, the 'Mad max' outings.

Now add to the list 'The Book of Eli,' directed by the Hughes brothers (Albert and Allen) and starring Denzel Washington and Gary Oldman. The story takes place some 30 years after the final war that has turned the Earth in an ash-plagued wasteland. Washington plays a solitary man -- a kind-of Clint Eastwood "Man With No Name in the Apocalypse" -- who walks across what was once America clutching a book that he hopes will bring hope and salvation to what remains of the world. He's a warrior who won't let anyone get in his way, or steal his book. That includes a man named Carnegie (Oldman in another quite evil role), a self-appointed despot of a makeshift town of thieves and gunmen, who lives with his wife (Jennifer Beals) and adopted daughter (Mila Kunis). He's fascinated by Eli and wants the power of the book for his own.

The critics have been mixed about 'Eli,' chastising the film for taking itself too seriously or for its spiritual themes, or for its lack of "kick-ass" action or for stereotypical characters. And then there's those critics who like all of the above. One thing they all pretty much agree upon: Washington and Oldman are at their peaks.

Read what the critics have to say.

Chicago Tribune: "This week brings a lean, stark, surprisingly effective headliner in Hollywood's ongoing apoc-a-pa-looza. 'The Book of Eli' marks a return to form for co-directors Allen and Albert Hughes, who bill themselves as The Hughes Brothers. Their resume includes the vivid, juicy 'Menace II Society' and 'Dead Presidents,' and what they've made here, from a script by Gary Whitta, is a sly Old Testament 'Mad Max'-y sort of Western, pitting star and producer Denzel Washington as a high plains drifter with God on his side against Gary Oldman as the entrepreneur ruling a makeshift dirty town somewhere in what's left of the Southwestern United States. ... What I appreciate about 'The Book of Eli' is its scale. Shot on nimble, lightweight Red digital cameras, the film may traffic in familiar landscapes and archetypes, but it allows its cast the space and time to make the characters breathe."

Roger Ebert: "I'm at a loss for words, so let me say these right away: 'The Book of Eli' is very watchable. You won't be sorry you went. It grips your attention, and then at the end throws in several WTF! Moments, which are a bonus. They make everything in the entire movie impossible and incomprehensible -- but, hey, WTF. The Hughes brothers have a vivid way with imagery here ... The film looks and feels good, and Washington's performance is the more uncanny the more we think back over it."

EW.com: "We don't need 'The Book of Eli', a ponderous dystopian bummer that might be described as 'The Road Warrior' without car chases, or 'The Road' without humanity. I'd be willing to forgive 'The Book of Eli' its portentous sins if it had kick-ass action scenes, and every so often Eli does slice and dice the stuffing out of half a dozen hooligans at once, or he presides over a gun battle in which the bullets clatter and echo with full-metal zing. But those are just about the only scenes in the movie that have a pulse."

'The Book of Eli' Trailer

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The Hollywood Reporter: "A well-made post-apocalyptic action drama with simple themes and archetypal characters that strains a little too much at Seriousness. As post-apocalyptic movie fiction goes, 'The Book of Eli' is not a crowd-pleaser like the 'Mad Max' series nor silly like any of the 'Planet of the Apes' films. This film, the first from the Hughes Brothers in nearly nine years, instead is an intense, surprisingly serious study of a man making his way through a wilderness of catastrophic destruction and human cruelty like a latter-day prophet. An overlay of spiritual themes doesn't always work, but 'Eli' is that rare Hollywood film that posits a Christian man as its hero."

Variety: Iconically effective as a single-minded messenger with a mission, Washington's Eli is ultimately too confined by the man-of-few-words movie norms he's saddled with. The feeling persists that the character, and the picture, could have been much more interesting had there been just one scene in which Eli, upon arriving at Carnegie's compound, delights at finally finding a man he can talk with on equal terms. Carnegie, for his part, would share this pleasure during an evening of stimulating conversation, all the while contemplating how best to snatch the King James from his new best friend. A little humanity and trust subsequently betrayed could have gone a long way."

Village Voice: "The Hugheses once had a black-comic sense to match their comic-book horror impulses. Here, that sense is evident only in a roadside stop-off with some unhinged survivalists ... This opens into a firefight showing off the Hugheses' other strength, their allegiance to uselessly beautiful tracking shots, here scuttling in and out of a besieged frame house as it's shot to pieces. The rest of the rote splatter-violence has Denzel whirlwind lopping off heads through Philistine hordes, sequences only good for insight into what PS3 games the Hugheses were playing in pre-production (screenwriter Gary Whitta's previous credits are, aptly, in video games)."

San Francisco Chronicle: In the future, according to "The Book of Eli," we'll all dress like we're in a Nine Inch Nails video. It is written. ... The Hughes brothers don't let nary a bullet or arrow fly without sending their cameras behind to track it in slow-motion. That such a Christian-themed film enthralls in violence so much (the body count is in the dozens) is obviously contradictory to its message of civilization saved by the Bible. ... It's fun to see Oldman, made relatively boring in the Batman films, return to full, theatrical villain mode. Washington, too, is in his wheelhouse. Ever able to play a man with purpose, he propels the film on a straightforward, linear path: a charismatic man-of-few-words with a whole lot of them in his sack.