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January 24, 2010

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Post-apocalypse with a bible

IN the future, according to "The Book of Eli," we will all dress like we are in a Nine Inch Nails video. It is written.

Almost everyone wears goggles and leather in the post-apocalyptic wasteland of "The Book of Eli." A meteorite and a subsequent war 30 years earlier has scorched Earth and the population.

The landscape (shot in New Mexico) is much like an old Western: cannibalizing bandits lurk the desert roads, while rough crowds take refuge in hardscrabble towns. At the downtown saloon, water, not whiskey, is "the good stuff."

Across this charred land strides our Christian cowboy, Eli (Denzel Washington), a mysterious, solitary man who carries the last remaining Bible in his backpack. He also carries a gleaming silver knife and a shotgun, and he's an expert with both.

After "the flash" of the cataclysm that rocked the Earth, many blamed the troubles on religion. All the books were burned, making the few that remain precious cargo indeed.

Those born after this event have no knowledge of books, what they mean or how to read them. The elders are the exception, those who lived "before." Among them is Carnegie (Gary Oldman), a villainous man who presides over the town Eli enters.

It is fun to see Oldman, made relatively boring in the Batman films, return to full, theatrical villain mode and Washington, too, is in his wheelhouse. Ever able to play a man with purpose, he propels the film on a straightforward, linear path.

Nary a bullet nor arrow fly without cameras behind to track it in slow-motion and that such a Christian-themed film enthralls in violence so much (the body count is in the dozens) is obviously contradictory to its message of civilization saved by the Bible.


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