In our opening post on The Book of Eli (click here), I promised to carve out 3 points the film makes about man, religious power, and God, so let’s continue:
1. The heat of life brings people’s true nature to the surface...
“When the chips are down, these ‘civilized’ people will eat each other. You’ll see. I’ll show you.” The Joker’s jeering claim about human nature in 2009’s The Dark Knight proves true in The Book of Eli. Civil and insulated as we can be in western culture, it’s easy to make claims about humankind getting “better” when it may be, in fact, we simply aren’t desperate or tested enough to expose our wicked hearts. Cannibalism, murder, and rape run rampant in this fictional future; there are no Good Samaritans.
Romans 3:10 says “it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one”. We often THINK we know those around us, we often think we know ourselves, sitting in easy judgment of those we read about in preceding cultures or third world situations. The reality is – to use a foliage analogy – the “heat” of life beating down on our heads exposes what kind of plant we are… whether we produce “fruit” or “thorns”. Eli’s world is fraught with human thorns, and the judgment on human nature is bleak… but our protagonist is carrying a seed that might change things…
2. Some people desire religion for control of themselves and others…
Some men are worse than those killing and maiming others to sustain themselves. They hunger for power, and they’ll twist and bend the truth to serve their purposes. Carnegie (played with feverish delight by ever-changing Gary Oldman) remembers the “power of the Word” from when he was a boy. Instead of looking to the good book as a source of hope, he remembers the authority it commanded and craves it, to keep his pawns in place and ascend a ladder of leadership in this devastated world.
He has no care about God, he wants to BE god. His comments and attitude, ultimately about how scripture can be abused, are worth the price of admission. When he reacts to a girl who has been taught how to pray, it’s priceless.
“There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures.” – 2 Peter 3:16
3. …but Eli is convinced that he serves a REAL God who is active, seeking followers and relationship.
Perhaps the most controversial part of the film is not a seeming pro-scripture stance, but Eli’s insistence that there is more than a mere book that governs and guides for life and sustenance. Although none of the other characters actually hear God’s voice, Eli remains unwavering in his belief, his mission, and his morals.
As this unlikely hero continues to evade bullets and life-threatening situations – something we’re used to in movies that posit offer NO plausible reason for their fortune – the film plays on this heroic stance with a new, mounting possibility for why this gifted-but-still-human character cheats death again and again. What if it truly is the will of God? The culmination of events in the film certainly offers viewers something to keep them talking after the credits roll.
I also can’t help noting 3 favorite slices of the film:
The introduction of Eli, revealing his prowess in silhouette under the overpass, is pure gold.
Books Carnegie discards in disgust include The DaVinci Code and an Oprah “O” magazine. He’s evil, but not dumb.
Eli quotes Psalm 23 and Solara (Mila Kunis) remarks “That’s beautiful. Did you write that?”
And of course, there’s the ENDING… but I won’t put a spoiler in this post. What was YOUR favorite scene?
The Hughes Brothers haven’t directed a film since From Hell, and I believe they delivered unquestionably. As a haggard Denzel Washington strides along a broken overpass, looking for all the world like he’s a first-person shooter in Fallout 3, dwarfed by the washed out landscape of a future where the Bible is all but gone and prayers have been forgotten, you realize these guys have made a “January release” truly feel epic. If winter is the wasteland for movies, Eli stands tall and accomplishes his task amidst the wreckage.
In a final post (for those who’ve seen the film, as there will be SPOILERS) I’ll elaborate further.
Update: audio review of The Book of Eli also available