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Gary Oldman
Mila Kunis
Denzel Washington
Ray Stevenson
Larramie Doc Shaw
Jennifer Beals
Michael Gambon.
Albert Hughes
Allen Hughes.
Running Time
117 minutes

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The Book Of Eli
Denzel Washington as a different sort of holy roller

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Thirty years after an atomic war, Eli (Denzel Washington) walks across a ravaged America, guarding his most precious possession – a book. Carnegie (Gary Oldman), boss of a small town, wants the book, which he thinks will give him power. When Eli escapes from town with Carnegie’s adopted daughter Solara (Mila Kunis), Carnegie and his gang set out in pursuit.

The Book Of Eli
Traditionally, when a major studio released a big, pompous science fiction film, someone enterprising (usually Roger Corman) got out a leaner, meaner, funnier version of the same idea: Rollerball was trumped by Death Race 2000 and Jurassic Park had less hungry genetically-engineered dinosaurs than Carnosaur. This Hughes Brothers comeback ought to be the Corman version of The Road, but carries over too much of the deadening respectability of the higher-profile picture.

Introduced aiming a home-made bow at a hairless cat he hopes to have for dinner and scavenging for a new pair of walkin’ boots, Denzel Washington makes for a glum hero – he moves at such a steady pace you can actually believe he’s liable to spend thirty whole years walking across America. In the tradition of Mad Max (not to mention Shane or the Man With No Name), Eli just wants to move on peaceably, but keeps running into folks who give him hassle, prompting displays of machete-swishing martial arts which leave circles of dying, dismembered thugs littering the landscape. Also, like every other loner hero in the movies, he runs into a ruthless varmint who wants something from him and attracts helpless womenfolk who need protection.

Luckily, the Brothers hired Gary Oldman to play the tyrant of the wastelands: his canny, squirming, amused baddie lifts what would otherwise be a complete downer enlivened only by bursts of violence and moments of laughable solemnity. In fact, this grey, blasted, muddy wasteland (the whole film seems to have been shot through ash-coloured lenses) is home to a surprising number of eccentric British character actors, suggesting that the Hughes’ still have the UK casting directories they needed for From Hell.

Besides Michael Gambon and Frances de la Tour as folksy old-time cannibals with an arsenal under the sofa, there’s room for white-maned Malcolm McDowell, taking care of humanity’s cultural heritage like the book-memorisers at the end of Fahrenheit 451.

Given that the leather-bound tome Eli treasures is embossed with a crucifix, it’s not much of a surprise when we find out what it is, though there’s a twist (two, in fact) to come when it’s opened. Playing to the religiosity common in latterday apocalypses (from The Stand to Children of Men via those Left Behind movies), Eli’s literary devotion is more giggly than inspirational. Frankly, it would be more affecting if humanity’s last hope rested in almost any other book than the one chosen here – Tristram Shandy, David Copperfield, the Empire Movie Almanac. Denz reads scripture as if he really means it, but the film is happier when Eli’s prayers are rewarded by a gun which magically doesn’t run out of bullets and his waif disciple devastates the baddies’ convoy with a miracle grenade.

Mad Max 2 with Thought for the Day thrown in. There’s some ace post-holocaust action, but you can’t help feel you were invited to a party with fizzy pop and cream cake and got suckered into a sermon instead.

Reviewed by Kim Newman

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Your Reviews

Average user rating for The Book Of Eli
Empire Star Rating

Standard three stars for The Book of Eli

The Book of Eli has little substance, with little affection towards the characters. Denzel impresses, but is quashed by a below standard narrative. Read my full review on ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by TroyPutland at 17:27, 27 November 2014 | Report This Post

RE: The Book of Eli

Hi all. Just registered on the forum. I want to help fans of the film. For those who want to watch a movie online give the links: ... More

Posted by Bird_Stonee at 15:32, 09 May 2012 | Report This Post

7/10 for me, reviewed.

This road is no place for you.   The Book of Eli is directed by The Hughes Brothers and written by Gary Whitta. It stars Denzel Washington, Gary Oldman, Mila Kunis, Ray Stevenson and Jennifer Beales. Music is by Atticus Ross and photography by Don Burgess. Story is set thirty years after a nuclear war and finds Washington as Eli, who is travelling on foot across the desolated landscape to the West of the United States to deliver a sacred book. It’s a journey fraught with danger, more s... More

Posted by JohnChard at 23:18, 26 March 2012 | Report This Post

The Book of Eli

2 stars is a bit harsh I'd give it 3 personally due to the fact and at no point did I feel bored watching this and I was still compelled to see how things transpired. As mentioned in the Empire review Gary Oldman was great and even though Denzel Washington was required to play a humorless bugger he still did it well - you can't really blame him for being a depressed fucker he opening where a gasmasked stranger kills a cat with an arrow while ash falls all around was actually quite a stark and ... More

Posted by Fluke Skywalker at 15:53, 22 March 2012 | Report This Post

Me again!

5 stars, back where it belongs. Anyone who thinks this movie is preaching religion has a slimy cock hanging out their forehead - it's just an angle for the overall story. This movie fucking kicks ass, with mood and style. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by BatSpider at 15:38, 21 October 2011 | Report This Post


Shame that this has to go down as a missed opportunity, considering the potential that a Hughes brothers movie starring Denzel and Gary Oldman would have suggested. The result is a muddled, often confused action movie that errs a little too heavily on the preachy, holier-than thou side and wastes a decent cast(including Mila Kunis and Ray Stevenson.) Admittedly there are some decent action sequences,but the whole affair ultimately smacks of a rushed job that could have been much better. Disappo... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by cadz at 07:10, 07 June 2011 | Report This Post

RE: Night Shyamalan meets Mad Max. But watch it anyway (flaps hand).

The Book of Eli Post apocalyptic, sometimes entertaining mess of a movie about a guy who is trying to preserve a sacred book (can you guess which one?) which is apparently key to the salvation of mankind, despite the fact that it is cited as the cause of mankind's downfall and is clearly shown within the film itself to be a force for evil far more than for good, but then logic has never been the strong point of religion I suppose... But if you can ignore the absolutely nonsensical ... More

Posted by KeithM at 23:42, 02 May 2011 | Report This Post

Night Shyamalan meets Mad Max. But watch it anyway (flaps hand).

I enjoyed this Hollywood Film for many reasons, but mainly for the thought of Professor Richard Dawkins being so annoyed and incredulous about the religious theme that he absent-mindedly runs his wheelchair into a wall, then over a cliff. The Hughes Brothers? I remember I once listened to the Director's Commentary of From Hell and just thinking, 'Loud Americans raping Alan Moore with Hollywood gaudiness' -- yet I didn't automatically hate them, so what do you think about that? Apparently, my ins... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Then again who does? at 08:00, 23 April 2011 | Report This Post

Had to Undo the Harm of Kim Newmans Review

I rarely post review but having only just discovered this film on DVD I thought I would pop over to Empire and see what they had thought about it only to find Newmans 'review' of 2 stars. I am not going to berate him for his opinion (although in the past I rarely agree with him) but I really feel that people should see this film and not right it off as some Mad Max lite. I am not religious in anyway but appreciated what the film was trying to say and it shows a degree of intelligence on the part... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by ilander66 at 15:28, 04 April 2011 | Report This Post

Preachy, ignorant, cave-man drivel.

this is one of those rare films where I watched it and actually wanted to vomit with rage. If the Hughes brothers thought "moral complexity" was something represented by the question "do I stop a woman from being raped and murdered, or do I protect my bible?" (I'll give you a hint, apparently bibles are worth more than people) then we have a very different idea of both complexity and morality. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Bizz90 at 03:52, 14 February 2011 | Report This Post

Decent enough action

marred slightly by the religious themes, which would have worked better had they been handled with a bit more ambiguity. Brilliant soundtrack. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by muchobenny at 10:38, 05 February 2011 | Report This Post

RE: Better than I thought it would be...

L: wgfuzzydunlop1 For example, how did he know his battery was low at the start of the film? aybe cause it stopped playing music . . . Thought this was a very good film, twist was unexpected. Washington and Oldman were great, enjoyable cameos from Gambon and your one from Rising Damp and Mila Kunis is a babe. Don't see the problem, it wasn't even that preachy it merely presented us with an idea that I thought was quite interesting. ... More

Posted by musht at 01:09, 24 January 2011 | Report This Post

Better than I thought it would be...

Have to say though, Denzil being blind? Doesn't work for me. I going to go with mildly myopic. He had 30 years, he could've learnt braille. For example, how did he know his battery was low at the start of the film? ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by wgfuzzydunlop1 at 03:43, 15 November 2010 | Report This Post

4 stars excuse the pun but i didnt see those twists coming a thousand times better than the sixth sence its up thereFOR ME ANY WAY THE USUAL SUSPECTS AS REGARDS GREAT TWISTS. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by earnest at 12:21, 07 November 2010 | Report This Post

Excellent. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by reminn at 12:18, 03 November 2010 | Report This Post

RE: The Book Of Eli

I was surprised by the bad review from Empire! I watched it, expecting something mediocre, but it exceeded my expectations. A good story with a great twist/ending. After you see the ending, all of the little things suddenly become very clever. 4-and-a-half stars. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by velpix at 18:03, 05 September 2010 | Report This Post

RE: 2 stars no way!

L: Deviation L: lukeyboy Two stars for this movie is just plain silly. think it pretty much is right. sp; Then i think your just plain silly too.... ... More

Posted by lukeyboy at 09:29, 03 September 2010 | Report This Post

RE: 2 stars yes...way?

L: matty_b L: Deviation The twist is pretty much awful. And utterly ridiculous.  I went on Wikipedia to find out what the twist is (I have no intention of seeing the film - it looked rotten) but was distracted by the fact that Michael appears to be starring in the film, going from the poster on its wiki page hat's less baffling than the twist. ... More

Posted by Deviation at 00:03, 03 September 2010 | Report This Post

RE: 2 stars yes...way?

I loved the film and the twist. ... More

Posted by MuckyMuckMan at 23:46, 02 September 2010 | Report This Post

RE: 2 stars yes...way?

L: Deviation The twist is pretty much awful. And utterly ridiculous.  sp; I went on Wikipedia to find out what the twist is (I have no intention of seeing the film - it looked rotten) but was distracted by the fact that George Michael appears to be starring in the film, going from the poster on its wiki page. ... More

Posted by matty_b at 20:25, 02 September 2010 | Report This Post

RE: 2 stars yes...way?

The twist is pretty much awful. And utterly ridiculous.  ... More

Posted by Deviation at 19:58, 02 September 2010 | Report This Post

RE: 2 stars yes...way?

Here I find myself siding with Empire yet again...what is going on?   I find it hard to believe people would give this film a good rating. I mean, some of the action scenes are ok and Gary Oldman is good fun as yet another hammy bad guy but the whole thing just builds up to nothing dramatically. The film just ends up feeling like religious propaganda even if that maybe wasn't the intention. Even the "twist" in Zardoz (starring Sean Connery in tiny red pants) was more powerful! ... More

Posted by Edward Nygma at 19:30, 02 September 2010 | Report This Post

RE: 2 stars no way!

L: lukeyboy Two stars for this movie is just plain silly. think it pretty much is right. ... More

Posted by Deviation at 18:38, 02 September 2010 | Report This Post

RE: 2 stars no way!

Maybe Denzel was blind, but was able to see only to become again in the end? I know I'm reaching, but I wanted to throw it out there. ... More

Posted by Johnny_A at 18:26, 02 September 2010 | Report This Post

RE: 2 stars no way!

Two stars for this movie is just plain silly. I saw this the other night and it's a very, very good film.   BTW, THERE BE POSSIBLE SPOILERS AHEAD!!   There's a lot of things I liked about this movie but i'll start with the colouring. It is a bleak setting no doubt, but the cinematographer has made it look actually quite picturesque with the help of some very good lighting, brilliant camera work and a great landscape to work on (i would think it's Arizona or... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by lukeyboy at 16:43, 02 September 2010 | Report This Post

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