Movies make the future look bad. People will be bad. The earth will be bad. We will all be unhappy, hopeless, skinny people with rotting teeth (or fangs, according to Daybreakers), waiting for the end. The Book of Eli is no different. It paints a picture of a post-war, pre-apocalyptic world in which we have burned a hole in the sky. The majority of humanity was wiped out in the war. The leftover remnants of humanity are featured in this film, ranging from those blinded by the sun (when the sky opened up), to those who physically shake, surviving on the rotting flesh of other dead humans. There is very little water. There is very little food. It is a fight for survival—a survival of gray, black, and brown hues, where shampoo is a serious, serious luxury item.
Into this world walks Eli (Denzel Washington), who has been walking the earth for thirty years, carrying a mysterious book with a cross on the cover, following the path the Lord has provided. Through this Everyman (who can kick some serious ass, might I add), we learn more about this bad world. We learn that during the war, Bibles were burnt. Eli found the last Bible, and he is one of the only remnants of Christianity on earth. The other remnant is Gary Oldman—the rich representation of a pre-apocalyptic mayor—who wants to take the Bible from Eli for evil, not good. Oldman is always a dude you love to hate, and the director reminds you, via the first fifteen words from his mouth. Case in point: any man who uses the “P” word in reference to female anatomy (if you don’t know, don’t ask) is a bad dude. Therefore, Oldman’s character equals bad dude.
The Book of Eli was a great movie. There were some mutterings in the audience regarding really long moments of silence, but I found the long pauses and wide-angle shots effective. This visual representation of an empty, wasted world perpetuated the feeling of loneliness and hopelessness, already developed via character communication. I liked the subdued colors. The human-eaters were creepy, and you really, really liked watching Eli slash them into bits with his machete. (Seriously, the fight scenes are clutch. Denzel is still kickin’ ass, regardless of the gray hairs in his beard.) All the actors were good. Denzel and Oldman are sure things, but even Mila Kunis (yeah, I kept hearing Meg from Family Guy) was emotive and charming. When Denzel says grace before dinner, her confused, wide eyes were so informative of this uninformed, faithless space, and perhaps, it was the poignancy of scenes like this that made me so damn teary at the end.
I knew The Book of Eli was going to be “religious,” and I know Denzel Washington is a dedicated Christian. I knew there was going to be a “message,” but I did not expect the breadth and depth of this message. I am a Christian. I go to church. I believe in a divine plan, and I know God has a path set for me to follow. And yet, I often take all this knowledge for granted. The Book of Eli begs the question, what if you’d never heard about Christ? What if you just didn’t know? Had no reason to be “good” in a “bad” world? Had no hope in salvation and an afterlife? Would you have a reason to continue on? Additionally, would you have a reason to be a good person? Many of the people in The Book of Eli did not. They could kill, rape, and pillage with no consequences. They had no path to follow, beyond the abandoned highways and dry, dead deserts. Eli had a path. He had been travelling his path for thirty years, following the words of God that had once told him to “Go west.” Dedication. Faith. Blind belief in a benevolent God. And Eli will be rewarded for this belief, whereas yes, Oldman will suffer his own consequences.
I was crying by the end. I can’t say for sure why I was crying. Yes, the movie is poignant. You’re really rooting for this Eli guy. You want him to “Go west,” even though there are no hints about his eventual destination until the last five minutes of the flick. You want Mila Kunis to understand this prayer stuff. You want the good guys to win, and the bad guys to lose limbs to Gangrene. It was more than that for me, though. By the end, I wanted to start dancing around the theater, saying “Praise Jeeee-zus!” like an old Southern preacher. Because God is not dead. God is very much alive.
I have gone through scary changes in the past few months of my life, and there are many changes happening in the next few weeks. It started simple enough—I jumped ship, career-wise. Easy. I fell in love, and I will soon be following the man I love wherever his job takes us. “Go west?” Perhaps. I hope I have the dedication of Eli. I know I have faith, in theory, but the testing continues. The adventure continues. I don’t suppose my path is as important as Eli’s. I don’t suppose many of our paths are, but his journey is applicable, in the Everyman sense of the word. Keep following the path, because God knows the way. Eli knew this, and it’s movies like The Book of Eli that remind the rest of us.