Monday, July 12, 2010

The Book of Eli

I see a lot of movies. Probably too many. But it’s part of my ministry trying to make sense of the media and what movies are communicating to us. Most are forgettable and, quite honestly, a waste of my time and yours. But that’s not the case with The Book of Eli. It’s one of the best films I have seen in a long time. All good movies have one thing in common. They are about something. And they offer substance.

The Book of Eli takes place in a post-apocalyptic world in the near future. It is not your typical Mad Max movie. Lately, we have had a rash of end-of-the-world films such as 2012 and Knowing. Some people believe that with the approaching end of the Mayan calendar in December of 2012 that catastrophic events will occur on earth.

The Book of Eli obviously plays on our fears of the unknown and of a possible bleak future. But this film not only portrays the future as a desolate wasteland but offers hope of a new tomorrow based on God’s everlasting truth. The film is a classic example of a Christian movie that is not a “Christian” movie. There is no doubt that The Book of Eli offers a Christian message, but it does it in an authentic, honest and truthful manner.

The Book of Eli was not made by a Christian company nor were most of the people involved Christians. We could learn a thing or two from nonbelievers about the art of filmmaking. The Book of Eli does not commit the fatal mistake of preaching an agenda or a message before the importance of telling a compelling story. The characters drive the story, and you never feel like you are being manipulated.

The basic story goes something like this: Denzel Washington plays the role of Eli, a mysterious stranger who wanders the desolate highways of a post-apocalyptic world. He must fight off blood-thirsty gangs in a lawless civilization as he is on a quest to protect a mysterious book as he moves westward. Gary Oldman plays the role of the antagonist, Carnegie, who is bent on possessing the book for his own purposes. He tells Eli, “I grew up with it. I know its power, and if you read it so do you.” Apparently our world has gone through some type of war and there is a hole in the atmosphere. The surviving people are fighting for the little remaining resources. They blamed religion for the war and have destroyed every Bible except one. Eli has the last surviving Bible on the face of the earth. He is on a God-given quest, a journey of faith. He has been given the mission to protect the Word of God and bring it to a place of safety where it once again can be printed.

There are so many reasons why I love this movie. The Book of Eli makes you think about the importance of the Word of God. What if it was lost, and people forgot about its meaning? The film places a new value and importance on actually reading the book. The first thing I thought was maybe I should read the Bible more. I’m not sure I’ve seen a better example of a movie that portrays a character who walks by faith and listens to the voice of God. Remember, this is a mainstream, commercial film produced by Warner Brothers Pictures. It made over $95 million at the box office.

In several interviews, Denzel Washington, who is a committed Christian, said he had a substantial hand in tweaking the script, and it shows in the end result. The core message of this film is God is in control. Even if the world is in total chaos, God’s word will go forward and replicate. Mila Kunis plays Solara, the daughter of Carnegie, who actually becomes the first convert and carries on Eli’s mission.

Denzel Washington and Gary Oldman do an outstanding job in their roles. Washington may be the best actor in his generation, and Oldman may be the best character actor we have seen in a long time. Every element in this film is outstanding. The cinematography is breathtaking considering they are portraying an apocalyptic world. Every shot is well constructed and has a purpose. The music score is haunting and, quite frankly, hypnotic.

The Book of Eli is not for everyone. Obviously, I do not consider it to be family-friendly entertainment. This film is meant for a mature audience because it does contain a fair amount of graphic violence and bad language. But I believe these are essential to the authentic nature of the film. Eli’s violent nature serves to protect the Book at all costs. But as he reads the Book, he is transformed more and more as he applies it to his life. Some people may object to the notion that the Word of God can be used in a negative fashion because Carnegie plans on using the Word to control and manipulate people that he feels are feeble-minded and weak. But, unfortunately, our history points to the fact that the Word of God has been used for both good and bad.

If you are looking for a movie about something, especially something important, you will do no better than seeing The Book of Eli. It is a film that you will not forget. I am personally convinced that we need movies that make us think about the things that are really important. The Book of Eli does this and more. You can find it on DVD and Blu-ray disc. This is one journey worth taking.

1 comment:

  1. I liked the movie a lot, and I agree with you whole heartedly. This is a good write up you have about it.