In this post apocalyptic landscape a lone walker transverses the barren landscape. There’s very little color in this devastated world. Everything is dried out and dusty. He’s armed with a bow and arrows, a gun, and a very large knife that he cares for every night, listening to his MP3 player, and reading this leather covered book that he carefully folds into cloth and carries in his backpack. He’s headed west because a voice had told him that it was important.
The walker Eli (Denzel Washington) comes upon a gang of thieves that want to steal his water and belongings, which he quickly dispatches in an amazing one shot fight scene. He views other violence on the road, but keeps himself from getting involved. When he stops at a settlement to get a recharge on his music battery, he runs into the motorcycle gang that he had previously failed to stop. The motorcycle gang is part of a road crew that was sent out to gather books, although no one in this world knows how to read anymore. Carnegie (Gary Oldman) is looking for a specific book; a special book that he believes will give him the power to exert over the settlers. At the saloon Eli is bartering goods for a small canteen of water. Carnegie controls the water in this town from secret underground springs. One of the motorcycle members picks a fight with Eli who whispers that he will have to pay for his crimes that he committed on innocent travelers. The fights gets the attention of Carnegie who thinks the walker is an “old one”, someone who remembers things from before the “end time.” He’s intrigued by Eli’s fighting skills and that he also likes to read and does so everyday. He locks up Eli to have him think over his offer of a job. He then sends him Solora, (Mila Kunis) the daughter of his blind concubine Claudia (Jennifer Beals), much to her sorrow. But Eli is not easily lured by a pretty young girl. He treats her with respect and offers to share his dinner with her. Before they eat, he shows her how to say grace. In the morning, she repeats this ritual with her mother at breakfast. Carnegie realizes that Eli may have the book that he so desires.
The reason for the end of the world is vaguely referred to as the sky opening and the sun burning the world. People who were sheltered underground were the most likely to survive. After a year, people came out and started to drift around. No food or water forced some to cannibalize each other. The telltale signs are shaking and discolored nails. The sun is bright and unrelenting and everyone wears sunglasses to protect their eyes as some have lost their eyesight in the early days. Chapstick becomes a valuable commodity for barter. According to Wikipeidia, the year is supposed to be 2043. According to Eli, 31 years had passed which would make the event that changed the world occur in 2012.
Eli explains that all the Bibles had been destroyed because people believed that the book was the reason why it happened. Carnegie believes that he can control the people with the lure of the book as it did in the “before time.” One would think that a movie about two men fighting over a Bible would certainly contain some heavy handed religious overtones. But this issue is smartly handled without overt proselytizing for any one religion.
The Hughes Brothers (Dead Presidents and Menace II Society) who have not made a film since 2001 personally offered the role of Eli to Denzel Washington, who wanted to be a producer of the film. Denzel, who at 55 years old, trained for 4-5 months so that he could do his own stunts with fight coordinators Jeff Imada and Dan Inosanto. The fight scenes alone are worth the price of admission. I was okay with the movie when I left the theater, but after reflecting on it, a growing appreciation has developed. But do you think those skinny jeans worn by Mila Kunis’s character would have survived after 31 years? Something to ponder. (Review by Reesa Cruz Hawkins)