The Book of Eli Review
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Lately, it seems as though Hollywood has become obsessed with the apocalypse. Over the last few months, we’ve seen the wild and wacky side of the apocalypse in Zombieland, the effects-laden destruction of 2012, and the heavy despair of The Road. Now, directors Albert and Allen Hughes (a.k.a. The Hughes Brothers) give their own wacked-out western take in The Book of Eli.

Thirty years ago, a great war ripped open the sky, scorching the Earth. Now, the world is controlled by cannibals and criminals, and everyone else has to fight for survival. Eli (Denzel Washington) is one of those survivors—a man who still remembers what life was like before.

As Eli walks west, he passes through a run-down town run by Carnegie (Gary Oldman), a wealthy, powerful man who’s searching for one very important book—a book that will make him supremely powerful. When Eli arrives in town, Carnegie suspects that he’s the man who’s protecting the book. He’ll do anything to take it away from Eli—but Eli will do anything to keep it safe.

The Book of Eli is, in a word, bizarre. It’s a strange mix of Mad Max, old Western, and Bible story. At times, it’s completely, ridiculously, wildly over-the-top—while, at other times, it takes itself way too seriously. The story is anything but consistent—and it never seems to know what it wants to be. Is it an action movie? Sometimes. Is it a comedy? Kinda. It is a serious post-apocalyptic drama with a message about the importance of faith and good works? Well, yes…it is. It’s definitely a random mash-up. But although it shouldn’t really work (and, if you really think about it, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense), somehow, despite its abundance of eccentricities, it’s still oddly entertaining.

So what makes The Book of Eli such a guilty pleasure? Most of all, it’s the quirky fight scenes—with the invincible Eli battling crowds of baddies with his best kung-fu moves (and a machete). Just when you think you’ve settled in for a serious, post-apocalyptic drama, the crazy action begins. There’s blood a’spillin’ and severed limbs a’flyin’. There are big, dumb cannibals with chainsaws. There are crazy old people who like tea and old records. It’s completely surreal, in that Mad Max kind of way—and it comes flying out of absolutely nowhere.

And there, in the middle of it all, is Denzel. He’s as cool and calm as ever—a kind of righteous Jedi master who carries a holy book and a big knife on his journey of faith through a dusty, barren wasteland. How the Hughes Brothers talked him into starring in such an odd film, I honestly have no idea—but I’m glad they did. Without him, it might have crossed that line into downright ridiculous. Instead, Denzel’s there to give the film a sort of unexpected touch of class.

Of course, in no way should you take The Book of Eli seriously—and in no way should you walk into the theater expecting a brilliant film. It is, after all, January—and expecting a brilliant film in January is like expecting a flood in the Sahara. But if you’re in the mood for something completely unexpected (and slightly ridiculous), The Book of Eli is, if nothing else, an entertaining way to spend a couple of hours.

Blu-ray Review:
There may be a shortage of things like food and water in The Hughes Brothers’ post-apocalyptic adventure, The Book of Eli, but there’s no shortage of extras on the two-disc Blu-ray/DVD/digital combo release.

The Blu-ray disc includes well over an hour of special features—not including the Maximum Movie Mode option, which allows you to watch the movie with the occasional picture-in-picture pop-ups, featuring interviews, storyboards, behind-the-scenes footage, and even hyperlinks to the disc’s other featurettes. These include the 10 Focus Points—a number of short making-of features, exploring everything from the props and set design to the choreography and fight scenes. There’s also an additional Behind the Story sub-menu, which offers another pair of features. One (Eli’s Journey) is another making-of feature, while the other (Starting Over) is a more academic look at the post-apocalyptic world—and what humans will need to survive.

If that’s still not enough for you, the disc also includes a handful of deleted/alternate scenes, a short feature on the film’s score, and an animated feature that explores Carnegie’s childhood.

Though there’s a fair amount of overlap throughout the features, they do provide a great deal of behind-the-scenes footage. So if you’re on your second (or maybe third) viewing, I recommend giving the Maximum Movie Mode a shot—because it allows you to pick and choose the extras that interest you (at the appropriate times during the movie). If you’re a first-timer, though, wait until you’re finished—then be sure to browse through some of the Focus Points.

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