Christian Living


The Book of Eli: Movie Review

Star Rating

Please Note


R for some brutal violence and language.


Drama, Action/Adventure


Jan. 15, 2010


Denzel Washington, Gary Oldman, Mila Kunis, Ray Stevenson, Jennifer Beals, Michael Gambon


Albert Hughes and Allen Hughes


Warner Bros. Pictures

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At first glance, The Book of Eli appears to be just another violent post-apocalyptic film from Hollywood. But beyond the bloody scenes and foul language, audiences will discover a compelling story filled with more biblical references and Christian thought than any other major motion picture in recent years.

Oscar winner Denzel Washington, a professing Christian, was initially intrigued by the journey his character, Eli, is on as he seeks to fulfill the important mission God gave him. In a world where lawlessness prevails, Eli must protect that which brings order out of chaos, the one hope humanity has – a King James Bible.

The Movie in a Minute

A survivalist at his core, Eli (Denzel Washington) fights his way through the barren wasteland that now covers a desolate America. After finding what could be the last remaining Bible and hearing a voice calling him to take it west, Eli does whatever is necessary to protect the book. His journey is halted by a power-hungry man named Carnegie (Gary Oldman). Determined to use the book for his own gain, Carnegie wages an all-out war against Eli.

Eli's Journey

The movie’s first images paint a bleak picture, foreshadowing the world that Eli is about to see on screen. A dead man, with a single bullet wound on his head, lies on his back beneath the smoky light of a petrified forest. As Eli walks the road to the west, he comes upon a burned through car that holds the skeletal remains of its driver. With no dialogue for the first few minutes of the film, the directors (twin brothers, Allen and Albert Hughes) focus the attention on the life – or the lack thereof – that Eli encounters 30 years after “the final war.”

Basic goods needed to survive are scarce in this new world. People barter for treasured items, such as gloves and Chapstick. Above all, water is the prized possession. And that’s what the villain in The Book of Eli controls. By rationing the amount of water the townspeople get, Carnegie rules over them through fear. But, he needs one thing to ensure his power over the people – the book of his childhood, the Bible. Unlike Eli who seeks to protect it, Carnegie, who is currently reading Mussolini, sees it as a mighty weapon that can be used to control their minds. His perverse view of the holy book is solidified when he explains that it was used to rule people in the past; “it has happen before and it will happen again”.

Resistant to give into this mad man’s wishes, Eli tries to flee the town, to continue on his journey west, as God had instructed. Inspired by Eli’s defiance, Solara, the daughter of Carnegie’s blind, common-law wife, wants to escape with him to the desert. It is when Eli and Solara are alone that his true, peaceful nature is revealed. Quoting scripture, telling her about how he hears God, and teaching her how to pray (an act of faith she has never witnessed), Eli exposes his personal faith to the young woman.

With malevolence in his heart, Carnegie sends an army after Eli. Unafraid, Eli defends against the attack from his enemy. Not sure how he could hear God’s voice, Solara listens as Eli explains that he walks by faith and not by sight. And that it doesn’t always have to make sense; it’s just faith.

The script is intriguing, with a few surprises along the way. Screenwriter Gary Whitta develops this Christian hero well as he takes this incredibly difficult journey to protect God’s Word. Most importantly, Eli realizes along the way that he’s been focusing too much on keeping the book safe, to the point that he has failed to live by it.

The Book of Eli’s storyline is strong, with only a few mishaps. At one point, Eli is injured, yet he continues to walk down the path he started at the beginning. It could be that the movie was meant to highlight that despite even a fatal wound Eli was supernaturally protected so that he could complete his mission.

Offensive Content in The Book of Eli

The Book of Eli is rated R for some very good reasons, namely an excess of violence and language. Who knows what would become everyday life in a post-apocalyptic world? One thing’s for sure, the Hughes brothers didn’t hold back on the violence. Good and evil had to be portrayed, and they showed every little bit of it. Women are taken advantage of by ruthless gangs. Hand-to-hand combat and weapons fighting are a constant throughout the film as Eli defends himself, killing the worst of men (after one such fight, Eli kneels, as if he is praying). As Eli wields his sword, the blood of his enemies flows (there is even a scene where a man is decapitated).

Rated-R level obscenities are used by a number of characters. While Carnegie uses God’s name in vain, Eli reveres it. During one of their first encounters, Carnegie sarcastically says,“God is good”. Eli responds in an affirming and honoring voice, “all the time”.

One disturbing revelation in the film involves an older couple Eli meets. Situated in a fortified house in the middle of the wasteland, old George and Martha have defended their home against a number of invaders. Eli soon realizes that Martha’s shaking hands are a result of their diet. Seeing a graveyard at the back of the house, it is suggested that the lack of food has turned the couple into cannibals.

The Final Judgment

The Book of Eli is a strong story about a God-fearing man determined to obey the will of the Lord. However, the violence and language is too much for families. If the studio decided to release an edited version of this film, then it might find a bigger Christian audience flocking to the theaters.

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