'Eli' has action, heart

The post-apocalyptic future of “The Book of Eli” is, like so many other post-apocalyptic futures, a depressing and dismal place. The land is scorched and barren, more desert now than anything else. Water, bullets, and gasoline are commodities, and roving bands of dirty, be-goggled biker gangs roam the wastes, waylaying travelers and generally being violent, Mad Max-esque vagrants.

Denzel Washington plays the titular character lugging his titular book across the arid wasteland of this post-fallout America. Eli has been wandering for 30 years, steadily working his way west, where he believes the book will be safe. Guided by his own staunch faith in the book, Eli doesn’t stray often. But he finds himself in a poor, dusty village, where the local mayor / crime lord, Carnegie (the enigmatic Gary Oldman), takes a special interest in Eli and his unique book.

Shot masterfully by director of photography Don Burgess, and directed by the Hughes Brothers, Allen and Albert, “The Book of Eli” is a film that truly transports the viewer. It creates an illusion so vivid and real, that one can’t help but be drawn into it. It utilizes muted grays, browns, and oranges to paint its world, producing a style all its own.

The action is top-notch and shot dynamically with clear, concise shots and some fancy camerawork to boot. In one scene, the audience moves between two sides of a shootout, handheld camera shaking slightly in the style of an embedded journalist in a warzone. And yet, “The Book of Eli” is refreshingly devoid of the insane camera angles and confusing pans and zooms that plague the modern action films that Michael Bay might helm.

Performances are fantastic all around, from Washington’s stoic Eli, to Oldman’s raging Carnegie. Mila Kunis manages well enough beside her veteran costars, and there’s a few memorable cameo performances from the likes of Tom Waits and Michael Gambon.

“The Book of Eli” drags in spots, its plot meandering at times much like its pilgrimaging protagonist. But all in all, it offers a well-made sci-fi action film with a soul.

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