The Book of Eli

 

The Book of Eli

Written by Gary Whitta

Directed by The Hughes Brothers

2010


Production:

Theatrical:  Alcon Entertainment

Video: Warner Home Video


Video:

Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1

Resolution: 1080p

Codec: VC-1

Disc Size: 30.31 GB

Feature Size: 21.32 GB

Bit Rate: 16.95 Mbps

Runtime: 118 minutes

Chapters: 25

Region: All


Audio:

English DTS-HD MA 5.1

French Dolby Digital 5.1

Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1

English Dolby Digital 2.0


Subtitles: English, French & Spanish


Extras:
• Maximum Movie Mode: PIP commentary with the Hughes Bros & Denzel Washington

• A Lost Tale: (5:00)

• Eli’s Journey (17:53)

• Starting Over (13:00)

• Soundtrack: with Composer Atticus Ross and Co-Director Allen Hughes (5:00)

• Deleted & Alternate Scenes (1:53)

• Disc 2: DVD and Digital Copy


Presentation:

Blu-ray Amaray case. 2 discs

Release Date: June 15, 2010



The Movie: 7

Derivative as all hell, The Book of Eli still manages to find its unique voice.  After a gruesome and chilling start involving a corpse, a mutant cat and a well-placed arrow, I found myself revisiting, in rapid succession, I Am Legend, Wall-E, The Road Warrior, Yojimbo and, ultimately, Fahrenheit 451.  That voice is both visual and moral - the piety of the latter rings a little hollow, but the landscape of the former is both poetic and riveting.


     


Eli (Denzel Washington) has this book.  He’s had it since not long after the holocaust that laid waste most of planet three decades since.  He’s very protective of it, and won’t let others so much as look at it.  Eli is also on a pilgrimage.  The same urgency that evokes his feeling about the book requires he walk West – we assume for many years now.  There are survival needs and distractions plenty along the way, and Eli has the skills to meet the one and the dedication to avoid the other.  That is, until he meets up with Carnegie.


     


Carnegie (Gary Oldman) is the ruthless boss of a derelict town that Eli happens into.  Unlike most everyone in town, he is old enough to know things about the beforetime, and he has an appetite for books – well, one in particular.  He has in mind a particular use for it that recalls Raiders of the Lost Ark. Once he learns that this very book is in Eli’s possession, he stops at nothing to obtain it.


     


Oldman is his usual amazing self, incorporating menace, intelligence, and a certain self awareness that those around him, all younger and relatively stupid (especially the men) have little of.  Mila Kunis is Solara, used by Carnegie as barmaid and beastsoother. Carnegie figures he can use her to ferret the book away from Eli or, at least, be certain it is the book he seeks.  Up until the last frames of the movie, I was never convinced that Kunis was the character she intends to be.  She struck me as out of place just as her character begins to feel she might be as well.  The transition, if there was one, failed to register.  Besides the movie’s streak of pious simplicity, her casting and direction was the one standout error.


     


The Book of Eli has more than its share of violence, but beyond that, the movie seems to understand that when the forces of putative bad pit themselves against the forces of putative good, the seeds that eventually led to our destruction are planted once again.


    


Image: 9/9

Shot in polished HD-Video, and finished off with desaturating blue, green and sepia filters that evoke the desolation that comes with a post-apocalyptic universe: The image is clean, haunting, mesmerizing.  Landscapes without respite trail into infinity, dotted with the occasional figure, speeding vehicle or the distressed building, reminiscent of Paris, Texas, Fistful of Dollars,  Walkabout and the most obvious, Road Warrior.  Iconic films, all; set in the desert for good reason: the place of Birth, Death, the Struggle at its least romantic.  Given both the method of photography, its post-processing, and its transfer to high definition video, we are gratified that it has made its pilgrimage with no apparent disturbances. Sharpness and resolution is just about right: textures are manifest but not detailed.  I should want no more.


     


Audio & Music: 9/8

Warner provides a balanced, nuanced, dynamic reference standard soundscape that blends clear dialogue and Atticus Ross’ music perfectly, along with authoritative, but not overbearing, low frequency effects.  While a good deal of what we hear is subtle, reinforcing as it does the bleak landscape, the soundfield occasionally erupts with gunshots, crashing cars and trucks and some judicious whacking.


     


Extras: 9

In place of a commentary, Warner offers what they call “Maximum Movie Mode,” an interactive picture-in-picture feature with cast and crew interview clips covering casting, production design and visual style, effects, locations and what we have come to refer to as the  “mythology.”  “A Lost Tale: Billy” is a short animated film about a young Carnegie. “Starting Over” considers the problem of rebuilding some semblance of civilization in the aftermath of a catastrophe. “Eli's Journey” is an 18-minute summary from development of story through production. All the Bonus Features are in high definition.  Bless ‘em.


     


Recommendation: 8

One of the more satisfying Blu-ray titles in terms of production: The Image and Audio quality and Extra Features are all top drawer.  The movie itself is worthy but not nearly as mythic as I think it wants to be.  Road Warrior it is not.  Only two of its characters generate our interest, while cameos by Tom Waits, Michael Gambon and especially Frances de la Tour rivet our attention but are not developed.


Leonard Norwitz

© LensViews

June 10, 2010



     



        
    
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