The Road/The Book of Eli

Rating – The Road * The Book of Eli ***

I saw both of these post apocalyptic road movies in the same week, so it was hard to avoid the comparison. One is a critically acclaimed adaptation of an equally “beloved” novel, the other is centred around an even more influential work of fiction, “THE good book”.

Firstly, The Road. Other than an admirable central performance by Viggo Mortensen, the remaining elements are as barren and torturous as the landscape he must navigate. This is a dying world where even the trees are doomed, and they sure let the audience know it. With no narrative drive or original insight, this is simply an exercise is watching two characters suffer repeatedly. Worst of all the film feels self important, as if we should be grateful for the opportunity to witness it’s majesty… you’re highly likely to doze off from time to time. I wish I could evaluate it more specifically but the film is devoid of anything memorable. I find the mainstream critical hype truly baffling.

The Book of Eli has far more going for it. Partly reminiscent of films from the other end of the spectrum (Mad Max, Waterworld, Blade) it has moments which can only be described as genuinely “cool”. In a genre still very much in the shadow of the original Matrix, it takes something special in fight choreography to register as impressive. These moments are fleeting, but The Book of Eli contains a couple of real gems. Then there’s Garry Oldman, apparently on a quest to make his classic performance in Leon look restrained. I love seeing Oldman play eccentric evil nutters, it just works. On this level, the film is undeniably entertaining. Throw in Michael Gambon, Tom Waits, and a cameo by Malcolm MacDowell and you’ve been compensated for the price of your ticket.

However, this is also a film with an ambitious, but regrettably, deeply flawed concept. Set just 30 years after an unspecified apocalypse we are supposed to believe that this world has lost all memory of religion. People trade small trinkets, remnants of western culture such as KFC napkins and cigarette lighters, but nobody has ever heard of The Bible. Well, nobody other than Denzel Washington and Garry Oldman, who will do anything for the last copy in existence. It’s a decent idea, and frankly a world without religion sounds like bliss. However, when copies of The Da Vinci Code have survived (visible in one scene) it’s laughable that a book previously found in every hotel and home in America has been reduced to a single copy. As good as Washington is at portraying a humble “warrior monk” his blind devotion to this book makes it hard to side with him. In the back of my mind I couldn’t help thinking that his agenda is the last thing the world needs. If he succeeds they’ll be back to Sarah Palin rallies or protesting Darwinism in no time! Throw in a twist ending which doesn’t hold up to any scrutiny, and the early promise of the film goes unfulfilled. The pacing is odd too. Several scenes are nothing but characters walking in slow motion with sunglasses. Therefore The Book of Eli ranks as a curiosity. It may miss most of its targets, but the ones it hits make it enjoyable enough.

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~ by thewholebuffalo on January 20, 2010.

2 Responses to “The Road/The Book of Eli”

  1. you have really upset Antony!

  2. Upset Jnr? Damn, I forgot that was him starring opposite Viggo Mortensen in The Road. You did a good job too Antony.

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