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Book of Eli, The (Blu-ray Review)

11 Jun, 2010 By: John Latchem

Street 6/15/10
Box Office $94.8 million
$28.98 DVD, $35.99 Blu-ray
Rated ‘R’ for some brutal violence and language.
Stars Denzel Washington, Gary Oldman, Mila Kunis, Ray Stevenson, Jennifer Beals.

Released about a month from each other in theaters and on disc, The Book of Eli and The Road are so similar they may as well take place in the same post-apocalyptic future.

The Road is more of a thoughtful, personal drama about survival in a dark time, filled with characters who have no sway over the larger issues of how society might rebuild.

The Book of Eli, on the other hand, is an engaging, stylistic post-modern Western with a protagonist not unlike a Samurai warrior. Denzel Washington is terrific as the grizzled drifter, a badass who has been wandering what once was America for 30 years toward the west coast hoping to deliver a book that might inspire the revival of civilization.

Seeking the same book is local warlord Carnegie, played by Gary Oldman as if he’s doing an impression of Al Swearengen from “Deadwood.” Carnegie controls a few small villages through his dominion over the water supply, and he thinks the inspirational message of the book can be used to further his rule.

In a story about the power of faith, it’s pretty clear what the book is early on, but the film won’t confirm it until the very end. It turns out, though, that this so-called mystery is really only a distraction from a bigger twist that instantly invites a second viewing out of necessity. Much like The Sixth Sense, it is a reveal that alters how the film is viewed, but it also furthers an appreciation for just how intricately the story has been written (by comic book writer Gary Whitta) and directed (by the Hughes Brothers, their first film since 2001’s From Hell).

In terms of structure, the film more closely resembles Children of Men, especially in its long, drawn-out camera coverage of lengthy gunfights. As revealed in the numerous featurettes on the Blu-ray, the filmmakers basically created comic book panels instead of storyboards while planning certain shots. As a result, the film takes on the feel of a living graphic novel.

Another extra presents the backstory of Carnegie through a five-minute motion comic detailing his childhood before the cataclysm. There’s also a few minutes of inconsequential deleted footage.

A maximum movie mode lets viewers watch most of the behind-the-scenes footage during the movie, and presents some survival tips. Unfortunately the extras are rather silent as to a further examination of the film’s major revelation, and a commentary discussing it would have been quite welcome.

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