Thursday, April 14, 2011

the tome of my god

His name is Eli and he is on his way to the west in a post-apocalyptic world. He is played by Denzel Washington and that was not all that made me think of Will Smith (I Am Legend). The montage set to How can you mend a broken heart? took me back to the frivolous bit of bathing in I, Robot while Stevie Wonder's Superstition played on. But I do the the Hughes Brothers great injustice by reaching out for such comparisons. They didn't rub it in that Eli was so fitting a name for a man walking across the country with the Bible (hint: Psalms 22:2-3). They kept the tone of the film consistent without getting enamoured of the special effects (even though some of the heavy digital dressing of the skyscape was a bit too obvious). I had enjoyed the way the attack on the house was presented -- thanks to careful planning and obvious post-production -- as a seamless adventurous shot with the camera tracing arcs that never distracted me and kept me interested in the action. I liked how elements from the western (a lone man drifting through towns, people building communities and worlds for themselves and a character humming a tune by Ennio Morricone) were mixed into the film without making it an exercise in blending genres; the narrative never yielded to exposition in order to tell us more about how the world had ended up this way -- it remained first a drama, a tale of conflict between people and values and a story of a personal quest. I could forgive the obligatory product placement, because the brands

The Hughes Brothers also gave me a chance to see another wonderful performance by Denzel Washington. Interestingly enough, it was the ending of the film that sealed it. What was otherwise an (as always) earnest measured performance became a very careful honest subtle interpretation. I went back to the beginning and started watching scenes, listening to lines, watching the big fight scene (and realising how the inspiration for it also made sense) and admiring just how honest everybody had been to me. The quote from Johnny Cash (Live at Folsom Prison) which had elicited a mild chuckle now seemed to mean even more. I found myself adding more meaning to the way scenes had played out.

I also found myself thinking about the ideas that the film had explored, even though I was not too convinced that the film had handled them well. The film could not resist the temptation to remain, despite its ambition, something better for the average viewer than the mindless action flick. There was more restraint, but there were also the familiar lapses that irked (the gun with infinite ammunition, for example). Although I would still pick The Road for being a more compassionate, subtle, complex exploration of the human condition in a post-apocalyptic world, I enjoyed The Book of Eli for being so much better than I had expected it to be.

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