As a not-so-subtle religious parable, The Book of Eli treads on dreadfully serious ground, putting the salvation of post-apcalyptic Earth in the hands of a wondering Western samurai. Denzel Washington plays the titular ronin Eli with honest poise and conviction, traversing this laughably violent world as if he’s the second coming (and he might very well be).
The arid landscapes are clogged with contorted metal wreckage, dead bodies, and ravaging gangs of thieves/rapists, framed by the constant lethal glow of the sun. Director brothers Allen and Albert Hughes bring their love for roving camera movement to The Book of Eli, an aesthetic that works best during the dynamic action sequences.
But the story itself is fraught with inanity, especially a subplot between Eli and a Solara (Mila Kunis), a young woman who bonds with the warrior and inexplicably turns into a badass by simple symbiosis. This small plot point ends up submerging the entire ending, rendering the whole “passing the torch” scenario completely moot. Still, there’s enough energy and skill with The Book of Eli to label it as a mixed bag, a sometimes engaging action film hindered by thematic posturing.