The Book Of Eli - DVD Review

'Eli largely delivers what you're looking for in generous helpings of knife-flashing action and gravel-throated conversation pieces'

With Gary Oldman and Denzel Washington pulling it along, it's difficult to see how The Book Of Eli could ever have been a failure. Washington is one of the few actors who typically guarantees at least mediocrity (The Taking Of Pelham 123) and occasionally elevates generic thrillers to something more than their synopsis (Man On Fire), whilst Oldman is one of the only actors in business today who can genuinely swap between the hero (The Dark Knight) and the villain (Air Force One) at the flick of a switch. Add in the return of The Hughes Brothers (Albert and Allen, absent as a pair since 2001's From Hell) and you're on your way to a very decent vehicle indeed.

Through some great cinematography and solid turns from the leading duo, Eli largely delivers what you're looking for in generous helpings of knife-flashing action and gravel-throated conversation pieces. Cinematographer Don Burgess, whose earlier work hardly marks him out as a master of landscapes (Fools Gold or Christmas With The Kranks anyone?), turns in what could almost be counted as a token cameo here, photographing a barren post apocalyptic America in sepia tones which work because he has the conviction to continue them right the way through. When we aren't looking at gorgeous visuals, the brothers Hughes produce some nice but fleeting moments of action, with Eli's early dispatching of a group of muggers wielding, amongst other things, a chainsaw, a real highlight.

Like most action thrillers of this ilk though, Eli is not short of its problems either, problems which neither Washington or Oldman can entirely pull the film up from. Mila Kunis is just OK in terms of her general acting but her performance is severely hampered by the fact that nothing about her here screams 'post apocalyptic desolation', rather, in aviator shades, chic scarves, and straightened hair, she appears to have been transplanted from the catwalks of Milan. This creates a wavering of tone that is further complicated by an out of place trip to an eccentric couple's (Frances de la Tour and Michael Gambon) house, which feels tacked on, and a often-forgotten religious undertone, which doesn't feel fully realised.

When it's stripped back to its core essentials, in terms of simple action or meaty dialogue between the two stars, Eli really works and works well, taking in heavy influences from Cormac McCarthy's The Road amongst other lofty aims. Whenever The Hughes Brothers try to expand their horizons though, there seems to be more backward steps than forwards ones and Eli threatens to tear apart at the seams. Kunis is almost certainly miss-cast and the religious message that wants to bloom never quite gets the room needed for it to do so. Having said all that though, Oldman and Washington are value for money and their presence ensures the film never threatens to fully find reverse gear, rooting it soundly in the 'solid effort' bracket of action thrillers.

Look further...

'there's a lot of religious talk about "the good book" until it becomes inconvenient, and decapitations become far more necessary for plot development. Then after that's all said and done, it can return to its talk about nonviolence, helping others, and the like' - A Life In Equinox, 5.00/10


  1. good review, but me no likey the film very much, despite loving the hughes brothers...

  2. Why thank you! I did enjoy it but I admit I wanted to enjoy it even more than I did. I was hoping for something a bit more fun and fast-paced and whilst you certainly got some of that, it was a bit 'weightier' than I expected on some levels. The Hughes Brothers are cetainly talented. I really enjoyed FROM HELL.

  3. Mila Kunis was a bit miscast, yeah.

  4. Yeah definitely, didn't fit for me at all.