Divine tactics

The narrative of The Book of Eli lacks cumulative buildup and, at best, is good in patches

TODAY, an apocalyptical disaster is often the starting point of many a film. May be it gives enough of scope for imagination to say nothing of the violence and mayhem that goes with it. And so it is with The Book of Eli which records the adventures of Eli (Denzel Washington) as he moves Westwards across America protecting the Holy Bible.

Like Mad Max and subsequent futuristic films it is basically violence that is the bottom line. Whether the Bible is reason enough to justify it is a matter of conjecture. But some may construe it as divine intervention. The directors, the Hughes Brothers Albert and Allen, however, do not take a direct stand on the issue but even the story they weave around lacks cumulative build-p and at best is good in patches.

After the holocaust, the survivorsí most pressing need is water. Few know its source. Long-haired Carnegie (Gary Oldman) is one such person and this gives him power to lead a band of bandits. Ruthless in his dealings, he is more feared than loved and even his concubine, the dumb Claudia (Jennifer Beals), is always in dread of him as he uses her daughter, the pretty Solari (Mila Kunis), to seduce his visitors.

When Eli runs into this group, he has already given evidence of his dexterity with arms, so he too is feared. They also suspect him of possessing the book that Carnegie has been searching for ever since their survival. Solari isnít able to seduce Eli but it is she who evokes an interest in the words of the Bible.

Not surprisingly, one encounters skeletons and mangled automobiles of an earlier era. Bridges have fallen and the debris is part of the wasteland.

The screenplay by Gary Whitta is quite bland given the vast possibilities at his disposal but some of the sets are quite imaginative. But there are not enough anecdotes that make the two lead characters grow. They stagnate and the fare enters the doldrums of predictability. Can they find a convincing way out.

How far will the story go, is the key question. In America, to San Francisco and the Golden Gate bridge, of course. But by then the film has already lost its steam. Will Eli succeed in his mission? And what about Solariís role? Actually, after going slow from the start, the Hughes Brothers seem to run out of patience or ideas. Or both. And hence it peters off. There may be some ideological justification but not strong enough.

Denzel Washington tries his best to seem plausible and his effort must be applauded but Gary Oldman just hams his way about and his talent is surely wasted.

Mila Kunis shows traces of talent that can be nurtured but the others are merely academic. Itís sad to see yesteryear biggies like Malcolm McDowell of If fame (as an insignificant curator) and Jennifer Beals, lead actress and dancer of the 1980s Flashdance pick up some crumbs but thatís the bitter truth in Hollywood and in life.