Movie Review: The Book of Eli
A few weeks ago I was in the drugstore downtown during my lunch hour and the guy at the front desk was going on and on about how wack “The Book of Eli” was. He had seen it and was very disappointed. “What didn’t you like about it?” I asked him. “Denzel just walked through the whole movie guarding this book and nothing made sense, not even the ending.” “Really?” I responded. “Denzel usually does really good movies.” “Well, not this one,” he stated. “I would not recommend going to see it.”
Fortunately I had heard different reviews from a few other persons and was able to see it before it left the theater, and I’m glad I did. I applaud it. Denzel Washington and Gary Oldman and the other characters do great acting jobs and the movie has a wonderful concept for its story. And some of the dialog may even convict church leaders.
The main character Eli (played by Denzel Washington) is alive after the post apocalypse, where due to (perhaps nuclear) war, the world was wiped out as most knew it. Water and food is priceless and instead of using money or any kind of currency, people traded and bartered personal belongings. For example KFC towelettes were a prized commodity. Denzel actually takes a bird bath with one early in the movie and then is able to barter with three of his towelette packets in order to get some electronics recharged.
Also priceless in this era is books. Eli’s book that he is transporting (“The Book of Eli”) is actually the Holy Bible, the King James version, the only copy that has seemed to survive the war. Eli tells another character that he meets on his journey that God showed him where the book is and told him to “travel West” with the book and that God will have his back along the way, and this proves to be true. He gets into some pretty serious combats with some rather wicked folk and he survives some harrowing situations.
Here are some of the impacting scenes I remember:
- “Remember to serve others before ourselves.”
We all have a tendency to be selfish. In one of the scenes Denzel says that he was so caught up with protecting the book and reading it, that he forgot to apply it to his life and practice what it says. Many of us involved in ministry or church work have experienced that phenomenol, where we are simply reading the bible in order to teach it to others or debating its truths but not living it.
- “They will do whatever we want if we use the words of The Book.”
The villain tries to get it from Eli at all costs. What is scary is that when he reveals his motive for having the book, citing that people will come from far away places just to hear the words from the book (he wanted to control other cities in addition to the one he already does) and he states that the people will do whatever he wants if he uses the words from the book. Uh oh. That sounds like a lot of church leaders today, unfortunately. They too use words of the bible (out of context) to get people to do what they want. Hopefully this scene is convicting (and life changing) to some of our church leaders.
- “Yes, I have the book with me, but it’s a little beat up.”
This scene was probably convicting to all Christians. At least, it was to me. Eli had read the book so much that he had memorized it from cover to cover! We tend to take God’s Word for granted because it’s so available everywhere, even online or on our handheld devices. But maybe we should be like Eli and treasure it like it was the only copy left and commit what we read to our heart and memory so that we can truly be living epistles. The scriptures tell us to hide the Word of God in our hearts that we may not sin against God? It was amazing watching Denzel dictate the word to the scribe who wrote it down so that it could be printed on the press and republished to get The Bible back into circulation for civilization.
- “He will show me what to do when I get there.”
Talk about a journey of faith. Denzel is listening to God telling him to go somewhere with the book but really doesn’t know what it is, but he trusts that He will know once he’s there. And that’s exactly what happens. He walked right into the printing press after he got far enough “West.” Sometimes it may be like that in our Christian walks. God tells us to go a general direction but doesn’t tell us every detail ahead of time; He tells us to trust Him and when we get there He will show us His plan. This happened with many characters in the bible also; for example, Moses who led the people out of Egypt and a few others.
I don’t remember all the quotes (and the quotes I cited above from memory so they may not be exact), but I plan on watching this movie again, especially after learning in the end of the movie that Denzel was blind! What a great reveal this is. It adds a whole new depth and wonder to the entire movie, and for me even excolor-boxs why his copy of the Bible was not destroyed. Because it was written in braille so people may not realize it was a bible. I also love how the villain finally gets his claws on the book but can’t really do anything with it since he can’t read braille. I want to rewatch it to look for clues that Eli is blind; for example, he wears sunglasses the whole time, he had excellent sight and hearing (like many blind persons), etc. He was also an excellent shooter for someone who couldn’t see! And he handled his sword better than the seeing characters.
Overall, i think it was a great film. I can understand why the gentleman I overheard in the bookstore may not appreciate the story as much. Some concepts of the story will mean more to Christians or persons familiar with the bible and it’s importance to the Christian walk and world, plus other Christian beliefs present throughout the film (e.g., God speaking to and guiding someone’s path, etc).
It also shows us that even with affirmaties (in this case, Denzel was blind), God can use us greatly.