The Book of Eli is a 2010 American action film directed by the Hughes brothers, written by Gary Whitta, and starring Denzel Washington, Gary Oldman, Jennifer Beals and Mila Kunis.
The story revolves around Eli, a loner, who is charged to journey west in order to deliver his copy of a book, the very last remaining King James Version of the Bible, to a safe location. Since the war, the world has become lawless and faithless. Along the way, the history of the post-war world is explained, and the importance of the book. Filming began in February 2009 and took place in New Mexico.
The movie was released for theaters in January 2010. Alcon Entertainment financed and co-produced the film with Silver Pictures, while it was distributed by Warner Bros. in the US, and international sales handled by Summit Entertainment.
Thirty years after an apocalyptic event, Eli (Denzel Washington) travels on foot toward the west coast of the United States. Along the way he demonstrates uncanny survival and fighting skills, hunting wildlife and swiftly defeating a group of highway bandits who try to ambush him. Searching for a source of water, he arrives in a ramshackle town which was built by and is overseen by Carnegie (Gary Oldman). Carnegie dreams of building more towns and controlling the people with the power of a certain book. His henchmen scour the desolate landscape daily in search of it, but to no avail.
In the local town bar, Eli is set upon by a gang of bikers and kills them all. Realizing that Eli is a literate man like himself Carnegie asks Eli to stay, though it is made clear that the offer is non-negotiable. After Carnegie's blind concubine, Claudia (Jennifer Beals), gives Eli some food and water, Carnegie asks Claudia's daughter Solara (Mila Kunis) to seduce Eli. Eli turns her down, but she discovers that he had a book in his possession. Eli pacifies her with stern words, but offers to share his food with her. Before they eat though, he has her pray with him. The following day Solara prays with her mother. Carnegie overhears them and realizes that those words were likely from the contents of the book. Through violence, he forces Solara to tell him that Eli was reading a book. When he asks what kind, she says she does not know, but forms a cross with her two fingers. Carnegie realizes that Eli has a copy of the Bible, the book he has been looking for. Eli sneaks out of his room and goes to the store across the street where he asked the Engineer (Tom Waits) to recharge his portable battery.
Carnegie attempts to stop Eli, having all his henchmen fire at him, but Eli avoids the gunfire and shoots most of Carnegie's henchmen, even shooting Carnegie's leg with a shotgun blast. After Eli leaves, Solara follows him and leads him to the source of the town's water supply, hoping she can accompany him on his travels. Eli traps her inside and continues on alone. Solara escapes and soon finds herself ambushed by two bandits who attempt to rape her, Eli appears and kills them. Eli and Solara continue on until they arrive at a strange house. They stop to investigate and quickly fall into a trap door. The residents Martha (Frances de la Tour) and George (Michael Gambon) invite them in for tea, though they are soon found by Carnegie.
Eli, Solara, Martha, and George hole up inside the house. A shoot-out ensues, leading to the death of some of Carnegie's men, as well as George and Martha. Eli and Solara are captured. Carnegie threatens to kill Solara, which prompts Eli to hand over the Bible. Carnegie shoots him in the stomach and leaves. While in transit, Solara escapes and drives back to help Eli. Carnegie chooses to return to the town with the Bible since his vehicle is running out of fuel. Solara picks Eli up and they continue west until they reach the Golden Gate Bridge, then they row to Alcatraz where they find a group of survivors. Eli tells the guards that he has a copy of the King James version of the Bible, and they are allowed in. Inside they are introduced to Lombardi (Malcolm McDowell), the curator. Eli, who is shown to actually be blind himself, begins to dictate the Bible from memory.
With the help of his Engineer, Carnegie manages to open the Bible, but is horrified to discover that it is a Braille copy. Carnegie's leg goes septic, and he will die without reading the Bible. Eli finishes dictating the Bible, and dies from his wounds shortly after. The printing press is shown to start the printing of the New King James Bible, and then the curator puts a copy of the resulting Bible on his bookshelf. Solara is offered sanctuary in Alcatraz but instead chooses to head back home.
In May 2007, Columbia Pictures and Warner Bros. signed the Hughes Brothers to direct The Book of Eli, based on a script by Gary Whitta. The film is the brothers' first since From Hell in 2001. The script was subsequently rewritten by Anthony Peckham, and in September 2008, actor Denzel Washington was cast in the lead role. The following October, Gary Oldman was cast to star alongside Washington. Principal photography began in February 2009 and took place in New Mexico. Alcon Entertainment financed the film and co-produced with Silver Pictures.
The complex fight scenes were choreographed by Jeff Imada and features the Filipino Martial Art of Kali. Denzel Washington trained for months with Dan Inosanto and Jeff Imada for the role.
The film was released in North America on January 15, 2010 in 3,111 theaters. It took in $11,672,970—$3,752 per theater, its opening day. By the end of its opening four-day holiday weekend it grossed $38,437,553—$12,355 per theater. It ranked No. 2, only behind Avatar. On its second weekend, it placed No. 3 with Legion taking its No. 2 place and grossed $15,732,493—$5,057 per theater. By its third weekend it dropped down to No. 5 and made $8,908,286— $2,897 per theater. The film has come to gross $94,835,059 in the United States and Canada, and $60,954,519 in other markets, with an estimated worldwide total of $155,789,578.
The film has received mixed reviews from critics. Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports that 47% of 174 critics have given the film a positive review, with a rating average of 5.3 out of 10.
Among Rotten Tomatoes' "Top Critics", which consists of popular and notable critics from the top newspapers, websites, television and radio programs, the film holds an overall approval rating of 50%, based on a sample of 30 reviews. The site's consensus is that "It's certainly uneven, and many viewers will find that its reach exceeds its grasp, but The Book of Eli finds the Hughes brothers injecting some fresh stylish fun into the kind of post-apocalyptic wasteland filmgoers have seen more than enough of lately."
Metacritic, which assigns a weighted average score out of 0–100 reviews from film critics, has a rating score of 53 based on 33 reviews.
Todd McCarthy of Variety predicted "this will not be one of ... Denzel Washington's bigger grossers." Chicago Sun-Times critic Roger Ebert gave the film 3 of 4 stars and said of the film: "You won't be sorry you went. It grips your attention, and then at the end throws in several WTF! moments, which are a bonus." Reviewing the film for The A.V. Club, Scott Tobias graded the film a B, and wrote "At a time when theaters are experiencing a glut of doomsday scenarios, the Hughes’ ashen, bombed-out future world looks a little too familiar, no matter how crisply they present it. But the showdown between Washington and a deliciously hammy Oldman complicates the film’s overt religiosity...". Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly gave the film a D, calling it "a ponderous dystopian bummer that might be described as The Road Warrior without car chases, or The Road without humanity."
The film was released on DVD and Blu-ray on May 31, 2010 in the UK and on June 15, 2010 in the United States and Canada. The DVD had an impressive first week debut taking the top spot on all 3 National Home video market charts. It premeired #1 on the Home Media Magazine’s Rental Chart, the Nielson Videoscan Blu-Ray chart and the Nielson VideoScan First Alert Sales Chart where it outdistanced its nearest competitor in sales by a 3 to 1 margin.
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