Eli (Denzel Washington) is travelling west through a post-apocalyptic landscape. He is on his own, but well able to take care of himself (which he demonstrates by slaughtering first a cat and then a group of hijackers). He comes to a small town that is run by Carnegie (Gary Oldman), who is looking to expand his power base and is searching a special book that is supposed to enable him to do just that: The bible.
Holy crap [no pun intended]. I knew that I was in for a bumpy ride with this film, but Gary Oldman made me want to watch anyway. Now I wish I hadn’t… There were some very nice shots in the film, but that’s about all the good that comes from it.
The film tries to show the bad side of religion and faith: How the power-hungry use it as a tool. But it never actually takes a negative view on religion. Religion, in this film, is perfect. Faith literally protects Eli from bullets. Everybody starts believing instantly when confronted with tidbits from the bible, even though most people have been living their whole life in an atheistic society.
The idea itself that Carnegie could achieve domination only if he had the bible is pretty ridiculous. He could have invented his own religion, if that’s really necessary to control people. He could have increased his own importance by saying that he was the only one who even remembered that there was such a thing as a bible, not to mention what was in it – it’s not as if the people around him would know the difference.
And you know the explanation for why there’s only one bible left in the world? Apparently, religion was blamed for the apocalypse. But that doesn’t seem to bother Eli. He has heard a voice who told him to safe the Bible, so he did, without questioning whether it might be an appropriate reaction to shun religion after it’s caused the end of the world.
But apart from the religious propaganda, this just wasn’t a very good movie. The cinematography (Don Burgess) was wonderful and there was a brilliantly shot fight scene in a tunnel. Everything else sucked. And I’m actually including Gary Oldman in this. I mean – how can you manage to remove the charisma from Gary Oldman? Ask the Hughes Brothers. They achieved it.
And it’s so badly written… I mean the dialogue is bad but there’s also this scene, pretty much right after the fight scene, where Eli happens upon two travellers, a man and a woman, who are being robbed by a gang. They kill the man instantly, but they rape the woman first. And Eli doesn’t intervene, even though we’ve just seen that he has no problem slaughtering a group of armed guys. Instead he mutters about how that’s not his concern and he has to stay on the path. [Fifteen minutes later he kills the robbers anyway.] Ladies and gentleman, your hero! I get that they wanted to show his resolve to staying on the path but that is just a pretty sucky way to do it.
Not to mention the casual misogyny that the whole movie shows. And there are still some things that are completely unexplained. Like why the cannibals would get shaky hands [apart from the fact that it's easy to recognise them that way] or how come that there still seems to be electricity and mp3 players. And how come that Denzel Washington has been walking west for 30 years and hasn’t yet reached the end of the continent? I mean, in that time, he should have been able to walk the whole equator at least once.
Summarising: Trust me and don’t.
Dear Gary Oldman,
I hope you appreciate what I just sat through for you. Please never make me watch something like that again.
If you do decide to make another religious propaganda movie, you will have to do without me. [Which is, of course, a fate worse than death.]