Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 19 April 2014

DVD: The Book of Eli (15)

Careering between moments of deep biblical reflection and extreme violence, it's Denzel Washington's monosyllabic lead character who provides all the intrigue in this post-apocalyptic drama.

As a mysterious traveller braving the American mid-west to deliver the last remaining copy of the Bible to an initially unspecified source, the film recalls too many of its post-nuclear forebears to list – suffice to say there are crazed cannibals and marauding outlaws aplenty to keep the plot moving along as we're treated to the spectacle of the cast of Mad Max clashing with Washington's aloof protagonist.

If the opening scene, of Eli (Denzel Washington) roasting a cat for his dinner while listening to Al Green on an old iPod, seems to promise a sense of humour, it's a hope sadly dashed in the rest of the movie, which centres on the efforts of gangster Carnegie (played by Gary Oldman) to relieve Eli of his copy of the good book so that he can use it for his own nefarious ends.

Unusually for a biblical scholar, Eli is possessed of superhuman skills in self-defence which make Carnegie's job more difficult than he imagined. It's diverting, if bleakly so, and though the post-nuclear backdrop may seem very familiar, it's the nagging feeling that the film is somehow proselytising that keeps it from fulfilling its potential.

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