The Book of Eli

September 29, 2011
Whether you’re sitting next to a comforting fire reading a riveting novel, or if you’re strapped to your seat in a movie theater absorbing the film like a porous sponge, an interesting story is an experience. The key factor that can make or a break a potential best seller or box office jackpot is the characters. This is as evident as ever in the 2010 film The Book of Eli. Watching Denzel Washington portray a righteous wanderer is more than enough to command my attention.

The very setting itself just screams “WATCH ME!” The audience witnesses a marooned wasteland that has been ravaged by war. The landscapes post-apocalyptic, book burning society qualities are merged with only remnants of suburbia, and share some qualities with Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451. Any amount of civilization left would make your average Midwest ghost town feel like a night in a Hilton suite. It is in this environment that we follow Eli’s journey westward, desperately in search for the safe haven for the beloved book Eli carries and protects with his life.

Despite the amount of attention the setting grabs, it is truly the protagonist’s actions that interests me. Early in the movie, we are first introduced to what makes Eli as unique as he is. Besides depicting the macho image of ruggedness, Eli has a sense of situational awareness that would make a rival out of Spiderman. He utilizes all his senses to carry on his path of glory, except for one (spoiler). Eli is completely blind.

Just the very odor that emanates from the soap deprived bandits planning to ambush Eli were enough for him to determine where they were hiding. When in a gunfight, Eli could only determine where his opposition was standing after he was shot at. However, the difference between Eli and those shooting at him was that he did not miss, despite the “handicap.”

From a brief description, Eli’s actions would most likely be described as that of a uniform action movie. Fight scene, plot discussion, explosion, followed by plot discussion, fight scene with explosion, and more plot discussion. However, it is how Eli’s story ends that make this film and his character himself appeal to me so much. Despite a hard-fought struggle, Eli’s book is lost. This does not stop him from ultimately reaching his destination, the world’s last remaining library. The straining journey drained Eli, but upon arrival, he informs the curator that he has the last remaining copy of a bible: The Book of Eli.

The interesting part however, is the book was taken from him long before he arrived. When asked if Eli would show the curator the book, Eli began to recite each verse in nearly prophetic fashion. The book that was stolen from him was completely in braille, a language which was gone with the wind. It was not until this moment that Eli’s blindness was revealed

The protagonist of The Book of Eli captivates me for many reasons. Partially, it is Eli’s cryptic behavior that sparked my interest early. When followed by the lively action of the movie, and concluded with the tying down of all loose ends in an act of heroism, I was made a fan. Eli’s chronicle was far more than a story to me, it was an experience.

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