As we finish our 3-shot review on The Book of Eli (click here for part 1) this last part includes SPOILERS. Curiously enough, I’d read the screenplay prior to seeing the film, knew the twist ending, and still loved it. The “reveal”, though intriguing, didn’t make the movie for me. My final spoiler-laden thoughts are about Eli’s condition, my favorite character, and Solara’s finish.
1. “…for we walk by faith, not by sight”– 2 Corinthians 5:7
While the apostle Paul is talking about a Christian’s confident trust in God’s promises, The Book of Eli‘s point – that the titular character is literally blind, carrying a braille Bible – is how the film hammers home the unquestionable providence at work in our hero’s journey. Denzel Washington‘s subtle-yet-tactile handling of his environment DOES testify to this: he feels a corpse for it’s boots because he doesn’t see them, holds a shotgun out until it taps a door in front of him, even follows a faucet head down to the knob. Morning sun wakes him not because of light IN his face, but rather warmth ON his face. Eli’s other senses are enhanced, like a God-gifted Daredevil (he “smelled” the robbers) and blindness might explain his “resolute” stance when Redridge debates – and withholds – from shooting him. Could it be that Eli wasn’t aware of his danger? If you don’t buy God’s presence in the film, you probably won’t buy the revelation of his blindness. Apart from a miracle (or a radioactive bat-bite) Eli’s radar-sharp awareness and missional resilience don’t add up.
2. “Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company ruins good morals.’” – 1 Corinthians 15:33
Ray Stephenson plays Redridge, who easily could have been a one-note toady. However, Redridge is disgusted by the depravity of his compatriots, while also lusting for Solara… yet still bearing a sliver of conscience. Stephenson makes an underwritten secondary character nuanced, and it’s a tribute to his acting. Though not power-mad like Carnegie, he’s forsaken morals for comfort and position. You get the sense he feels as trapped as Solara, longing for something better… but he has no faith. Or does he? In town, why does he let Eli go? We’re left to speculate his final thoughts as Redridge tumbles out of the truck and dies on his knees. Is his last act trying to aid Solara’s escape, making Carnegie see there’s no gain in coming back? Is a penitent posture happenstance, or reflective of Redridge’s heart? In some ways, he was my favorite character.
3. “Go therefore and make disciples…” – Matthew 28:19
My one disappointment is the ending’s shortchange to the screenplay; in the script, Solara (Mila Kunis) heads back out into the wasteland with more than Eli’s swords and confidence… she’s carrying one of the newly printed Bibles in her backpack. She’s clearly going to spread the good news of the book her mentor died to protect and propagate. The film shows a newly-printed Bible put on a shelf, but misses the opportunity to show one leaving in Solara’s possession. Kunis as butt-kicking action hero doesn’t quite look right anyway, and without a targeted mission of spreading the Word the ending is weaker. Perhaps she’s going back to face Carnegie and save her mother… which isn’t terrible, but isn’t the high calling it could have been. As Eli clung to the Bible, the Hughes Brothers should have stuck to the written word of the screenplay. See what happens when you paraphrase?
Despite a few quibbles, this film will likely make my top 10 for 2010. Between the obvious appeal of the base subject matter to the bleak vision of The Hughes Brothers, The Book of Eli not only survives – but thrives – in January’s wasteland.
UPDATE! Audio review of the film now available here!