Sunday, January 31, 2010

Reel To Reel: The Book Of Eli

"Do not swerve to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil." -- Proverbs 4:27

Going Rate: Worth matinee price, although some Christians may say it's worth more
Starring: Denzel Washington, Gary Oldman
Rated: R
Red Flags: Several graphic fights, language, references to cannibalism

When I saw the trailer for The Book Of Eli, I feared this film would attempt to turn Denzel Washington into Samuel L. Jackson. I was relieved to see it didn't. It stays true to Washington's cinematic reputation for playing charismatic men. More than that, however, it reminded me of why we all need GOD in our lives... even amid its violence and rough language.

The film takes place in what's left of America after a catastrophic war. Several decades since the last bombs have fallen, humans are living in a continuous wasteland of shantytowns and wreckage. They barely trust each other as they barter for food, water, or whatever they need using anything they can scrounge. Only in post-apocalyptic times is a KFC towelette worth more than gold. Lawmen don't exist; hijackers and thieves run loose. Illiterate, uneducated children grow into illiterate adults. People have either rejected or forgotten about GOD, except for the title character.

Eli (Washington) is a tough recluse. He can take out a gang of thugs with brutal honesty and an air of invincibility as he wanders down the road with a pack on his back. His focus on moving down the road precludes him from latching on to anyone, sometimes to the detriment of others. Early in the picture, Eli avoids stopping a crime in progress because of his need to "stay on the path."

It becomes obvious to us as the film unfolds that he is on a mission, guided by a book he regularly reads but keeps hidden from others. I bet you can guess what it is. In a lawless society that doesn't know about GOD, Eli's book is highly sought by those like thug boss Carnegie (Oldman) who see it as the key to controlling the masses.

I couldn't watch The Book Of Eli without constantly testing the title character's principles against GOD's Word. It has a lot to say about "running the race" well (1 Cor. 9:24, 2 Tim. 4:7), keeping faith, and putting priorities in life on the right kinds of things. A lot of you will not call this a Christian film, which is understandable given its rampant carnage and immorality. True, this film presents scripture in a context similar to Samuel Jackson's bellowing of Ezekiel in Pulp Fiction: something that just sounds cool in the midst of people getting blown up or shot. The ending seems implausible, but not too much so given the context.

I think I enjoyed The Book Of Eli because it made me think about how blessed we all are. The film shows us a world without GOD, where people don't know how to pray, how to act, or how to love. It also made ponder the consequences of the misuse of GOD's Word. It's only a movie, and we know GOD is bigger than any big-budget film. Still, if the world turns away from GOD... well, I don't want to think about that.

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