The Book of Eli (2010)
The Book of Eli is like a kinder surprise, only the surprises aren't quite as fresh and delicate as you'd like, despite the fact that they are constantly seductive. The film starts out as a post-apocalyptic drama where we follow a lonesome wanderer (Washington), in the vein of The Road... or rather identical to The Road, only more crisply shot, then it develops into a classically constructed western, complete with a dusty one-street town, a saloon filled with a megalomaniac town boss' and his one-note henchmen, and the young belle dreaming of getting away. And finally, in the film's final third, we get the real treat - if you're a Christian evangelist, that is: a seemingly uncritical tribute to the bible and the power bestowed upon those who strongly believe in it - and never ask questions.
After building up an intriguing and deliciously enigmatic protagonist during almost the entire movie, this final third (along with a preposterous "revelation" towards the end which I will not discuss further here) reduces Denzel Washington's Eli almost to ridicule with its spiritual propaganda. This is a big letdown for a film which, despite lacking in creativity and treading mostly of recent quite well-tread territory (I Am Legend, Children of Men, the Mad Max series along with the already mentioned The Road), is constantly engaging and watchable. The Hughes brothers' direction is one of good workmanship, the story told in a tight and attractive manner, and Denzel Washington's performance drives it all purposefully forward. His nemesis is Gary Oldman, who reprises a role he experted during the 1990s, without adding much more than his familiar force and style. In the end, however, his character, like the film itself, is revealed to be without essence, merely a preacher who is not really interested in the state of events which arguably must have preceded a world like the one The Book of Eli presents. A big plus for the dynamic ambient score by young English composer Atticus Ross.