The Book of Eli

Movies
2 out of 5 stars
The Book of Eli

Time Out says

2 out of 5 stars

The stylish opening of The Book of Eli—a lateral camera track through an ashen forest—attests to the spellbinding talents of ace cinematographer Don Burgess. His moody and immersive visuals (most notably a shoot-out filmed, Children of Men--style, in an illusory single take) lend weight to this otherwise rote postapocalyptic tale from Allen and Albert Hughes (From Hell).

A mean motherfuckin’ servant of God (Washington) shepherds a mysterious book to some unknown locale out West. (The tome’s identity is fairly obvious, despite the calculatedly hushed, oblique tones used to speak about it.) After a stopover in a decrepit outpost, the holy warrior attracts the attention of a snake-tongued saloon owner (Oldman) who wants to use the book for his own diabolical purposes. Cue guns-’n’-ammo showdowns, not to mention voluminous product placement—the J.Crew and Motorola conglomerates bedevil us even in the end-times.

A spunky sidekick (Kunis’s irritating barmaid) and character-role cameos (Michael Gambon, Malcolm McDowell and Tom Waits) round out this vision of a world where “Ring My Bell” played on an antique Victrola is meant to stoke nostalgia. Thank the pallid green heavens for Flashdance’s Jennifer Beals, positively ravishing as a sightless kept woman who acts as the story’s oracle. She wanders the halls of her makeshift prison like a goddess deprived of power, and ultimately takes an elatingly bloodless revenge on her captor. For a few brief moments, the film becomes something close to Greek mythology, as opposed to graphic-novel imitator. What a feeling!—Keith Uhlich

Opens Fri 15

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