starring Denzel Washington, Gary Oldman, Mila Kunis, Michael Gambon
screenplay by Gary Whitta
directed by The Hughes Brothers
by Ian Pugh Let's start things off by lifting the veil of mystery surrounding the titular book and thus reveal the transparent secret upon which the film hangs its interminable first act. It's the freakin' Bible, all right? You're going to realize it from the very moment the all-important book is introduced, but you're expected to play along because The Book of Eli is deep, and everything about this film--including its simpering attempt to transcend genre--labours to play up that depth. It isn't exciting, it isn't transcendent, and it sure as hell ain't deep. This little sucker is meant as a western, its post-apocalyptic setting serving as mere window dressing for dialogue about The Time Before and The Flash and The War and how humanity's lust for excess got them into that mess. (George Miller was able to squeeze more eloquence from the idea by throwing a bunch of big rigs into a squabble over gasoline; he reserved all that pithy dialogue for his feral children.) Worse than that, however, is that the plot has been cobbled together from practically every western made prior to Unforgiven (it's closest to Eastwood's own cliché-ridden, quasi-spiritual Pale Rider, if you're starved for a direct analogy), with knowledge and religion standing in for the encroaching railroad. If that doesn't sound like the most bountiful wellspring of ideas, well, the script would appear to agree with you. "It's not just a book, it's a weapon," the diabolical Carnegie (Gary Oldman) growls upon recognizing his long-sought-after prize. Alas, The Book of Eli spends the rest of its two hours trying to find new ways to reiterate this--and the more it repeats itself, the farther it strays from that point.