Warner Home Video
Cast: Denzel Washington, Gary Oldman, Mila Kunis, Jennifer Beals, Michael Gambon
Extras: Featurettes, Deleted Scenes, Maximum Movie Mode, Digital Copy
The Hughes Brothers' movie "The Book of Eli" did not really stir up much of an interest in me when I saw theatrical trailers some time back. While the post-apocalyptic theme does have its appeal, for some reason someone was missing from the trailers that got me excited. When the Blu-Ray version arrived a little while ago, I decided to give the film a look, nonetheless, as it seemed to have garnered quite a bit of a following.
Eli (Denzel Washington) is one of the last survivors of some holocaust, laying waste to the entire world. Walking alone through the desolate landscapes of America, he has various encounters, many of which end in some kind of a blood bath, as survival of the fittest has created a world of throat-cutting waylayers and notoriously violent gangs. Along his lone voyages, Eli carries the last existing copy of a book – which is, whoohoo what surprise, the Bible.
As he reaches a small township run by brutal warlord Carnegie (Gary Oldman), Eli's ability to cut down to size even the most imposing opponent brings him into conflict with Carnegie. The difficulties escalate however, when Carnegie learns that Eli is carrying within him exactly the book that he had been searching for for quite some time. Carnegie is determined to get the book to indoctrinate his people.
I am not sure if the religious indoctrination-theme of the movie was more of a turn-off for me or the ridiculously slow pacing. Quite frankly, I thought, "The book of Eli" was a pretty ham-fisted film without a whole lot of rewards. The story is so predictable, shallow and blatantly cliched that it takes all the fun out of it. I mean, the bible? Really? There was no other book on the face of the Earth that had maybe a little more value, or would at least have lent itself to some kind of a plot twist? Wouldn't it have been much, much cooler if that book had turned out to be Stephen King's "The Stand" as an example for people to pull together? Using the Bible was really such a lame spin that it completely destroyed the movie in my eyes.
Casting Denzel in the lead was probably another error in judgment. I do not want to take anything away from him as an actor, and while he put in a good performance, he is just no Mel Gibson. Seriously lacking cool, he just does not have that unpredictable edge of a Mad Max or Snake Plissken that this part would have required to come across as believable. To me Denzel felt like a wonderful actor in the wrong play.
Now, Gary Oldman is a different story entirely and he once again shines as the super bad guy. He did seem a little restrained however, not entirely filled with the madness he shows in some of his past roles, and it may again have been the effect of Denzel's totally rooted performance that would have made a more exaggerated over-the-edge villains seem like a comic book template.
Warner Home Video's Blu-Ray presentation is pristine and offers a flawless high definition transfer of the movie with plenty of detail. The overall film has an excessively muted quality – looking like a sepia-tinged black and white film for the most part – so that color reproduction is of no importance here, though it does appear faithful. Black levels are bold and solid, creating a deep image with good shadow details.
Audio on the release comes as a DTS 5.1 HD Master Audio track that is energetic and certainly up to date in terms of its dynamics and explosive use of the split surrounds. The wide frequency response and balanced mix make for a great presentation here, always ensuring that dialogues are well understood.
A number of extras accompany this film, such as a number of featurettes and the post-apocalyptic theme. Also included are deleted scenes and a featurette on the movie's soundtrack. A Maximum Movie Mode and a short film covering Carnegie's backstory are also included.
Sadly I found "The Book of Eli" a rather uneventful viewing. The film is bogged down by its own self-importance and the dog slow pacing. With very few redeeming qualities, it is not the kind of film I had hoped it would be particularly in the light of the Hughes Brothers' remarkable treatment of "From Hell" in 2001.