ďAt The MoviesĒ 01.15.10
This is Ron Salfen, ďAt The Movies,Ē and hereís my commentary on a film opening today at The Majestic Theater in Greenville :
You know how it is in Hollywood ---somebody finds a successful formula, and everyone else imitates it (come to think of it, that applies to a lot of other things, also, but I digress).  ďThe Book Of EliĒ is one of those apocalyptic films where sometime in the not too distant future, everything has gone to Hades in a hand basket.  Weíre not sure exactly what happened, or how long ago.  All we know is, the world is a dreary and desolate place.  Civilization as we now know it has been destroyed.  All thatís left are the ruins and the rubble and the hulking rust heaps.  Accompanying the chaos is complete lawlessness.  If you survive at all, itís because of your constant vigilance, your careful hoarding of essential supplies like ammunition, your resourcefulness in living off the land (can you shoot a quail in flight with a bow and arrow, without quailing at the sight?), and, on occasion, your willingness, at the drop of an insult, to fight to the death.  Kind of like the Wild West, only thereís no sheriff;  just you and the gangs of bad hombres who take what they want, because they can.
Eli (Denzel Washington) trudges through this bleak landscape quietly, but purposefully.  Unlike the aimless wanderers who quickly fall victim to conscienceless desperados, he knows where heís going:  West.  We discover that heís not all that certain why heís so focused;  it seems he heard some kind of inner voice.  That sounds like a religious man, but Eli, in order to have survived this long, is not at all afraid to engage in a violent brawl.  Heís very accomplished at hand-to-hand combat, and several types of weapons.  Heís merciless when he has to be.  And yet, heís obviously an educated man; a reader.  And he carries this one book around with him like itís his most precious and prized possession, and he reads it every day. 
The bad guy, Carnegie (Gary Oldman), when he meets this unusual drifter, at first tries all his old bullying tactics, and is amused when they donít work.  Hey, this guy is different.  When Carnegie discovers that Eli carries the one book he covets owning, heís in a jealous rage to possess it.  But, itís a little like the Devil wanting to own a Bible.  He might be able to read it, but the words wouldnít have the same effect.  He can hear the music, but he canít sing the tune. 
James-Bond-style, Eli manages to impress, and then turn the allegiance of, the beautiful young girlfriend of the bad guy, Solara (Mila Kunis).  Unlike James Bond, Eli is not interested in a sexual conquest, even if she is grateful at being rescued from the clutches of the fiend.  This only makes her want to follow him around like a puppy dog, which he says he doesnít want, but, of course, she comes in handy down the road.
It would be tempting to give away the ending, as other outlets already have.  Suffice it to say that this particular apocalyptic film has some serious religious overtones, in addition to its characteristic post-catastrophic mayhem.  You may not agree with all its premises; I didnít.  But it fascinates in an unexpected way, nonetheless.
This is Ron Salfen, ďAt The Movies,Ē for 93.5 KICK-FM