Book of Eli, The (2010)

Rated: R for some brutal violence and language.
Length: 117 minutes
Grade: AD-AA=A
Budget: $80 million
Box Office: $108 million so far (88 U.S., 20 Intl.)

Written by: Gary Whitta (Only script)
Directed by: The Hughes Brothers [Albert and Allen Hughes] (From Hell, Dead Presidents, Menace II Society)
Starring: Denzel Washington, Gary Oldman, and Mila Kunis.
With: Ray Stevenson, Jennifer Beals, Tom Waits, and Malcolm McDowell.

In a post-apocalyptic America, a solitary man wanders the landscape, carving up villains and studying the last existing Bible (all the others were destroyed in or shortly after the unspecified catastrophe). He finds himself in some difficulty when a local tyrant discovers first his combat skills and then his possession of the one book he has been looking for.

Entertainment Value: A
This is an engrossing action, science-fiction, theological thriller with an acute cinematographic eye and fascinating characters. Think Mad Max meets Lone Wolf and Cub with the feel of a Western set in (mostly) black and white (or sepia and white as my wife described it). It made me happy to be a movie-goer.

Superficial Content: D-
Drugs/Alcohol A, Sex/Nudity C, Violence F, Language D
There’s prostitution, sex slavery, and a scene implying rape (no nudity is shown). Violence is constant and graphic, including dismemberment, people being slammed into objects, and many people being killed. Cannibalism is a background element of the movie. There are about a dozen F-words and some other scattered profanity. This is certainly an R movie which no children should watch.

Significant Content: A
The calling of God is real, and God will enable you to complete your calling if you trust in Him completely. We have a tremendously good life that we take for granted right now, compared to what could be true if some calamity struck. The Bible has power, and evil men will try to use it to manipulate people. Pursuing a God-given calling with violence may be necessary, but even so has its limits and should never be enjoyed. Faith can lead you into situations where you wonder if you have made the right choices. Sometimes the religious novice can teach the religious expert about his own faith.

Artistic/Thought Value: A
There are all sorts of symbols and messages embedded in this movie and plenty (PLENTY) to talk about afterwards. In my mind, this is the best sort of artistic action film because it is entertaining enough to entice precisely those people who would benefit from considering it. Knowing that Denzel Washington is a Christian son of a preacher only amplifies the intentionality of the messages.

Discussion Questions:
~At one point, Eli says that he got so caught up with keeping his Bible safe that he forgot to live by it. Have you ever found yourself so eager to do God’s Will that you forgot to do it His way? Can you think of any Biblical characters who had this problem? Can you think of any current examples of people defending the Bible or Christianity in unbiblical ways? How are we supposed to treat our enemies, for example? Is this because they aren’t really Christians or is just that they’ve failed to fully be transformed by the power of Christ?
~Eli says that the essential message of the Bible is to do more for others than for ourselves. Do you agree that this is the central message of the Bible?
~Why do you think this film was made in sepia and white for the most part? Were there any scenes made with more (or less) color? What was the point of that?
~At one point, Carnegie asks Eli, “Where’s your protection now?” Have you ever felt like God was failing to protect or provide for you? What does the Bible have to say about these times?
~Why might someone say that one of the main themes of this movie is the importance of walking by faith rather than by sight?
~Considering the final destination Eli is trying to reach, what meaning can you derive from its name?
Since Eli has been studying the Bible for 30 years (at least), how has he become a walking Bible? How hasn’t he? Why is that difference important to this movie? Can someone memorize the Bible without embodying it?
~Why does Carnegie want the Bible for himself? Do you think his analysis of its power is correct? Why would he have such a high regard for it while still so completely misunderstanding it? How does this movie compare with, say, Raiders of the Lost Ark?
~How different is Carnegie from Eli, really? Who is making the lives of the people around him better on a consistent basis? Is Eli a hero? Can a movie with so much violence still claim to represent Biblical themes? Is there a difference between useful and useless movie violence?
~How does Carnegie try to use the Bible’s principles to persuade Eli to join him in his vision of the future? Why is this tension between God’s calling and the mere application of the Bible as a source of principles important?
~If you’ve read Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, what similarities do you see with this movie and the concept of staying on the narrow path of righteousness?
~What is the metaphorical significance of a world where both water and the Bible are terribly scarce?
When Eli says that the pre-apocalypse people didn’t “realize what was precious,” is he talking about food and civilization or about Bible access and knowledge?
~Why did people burn Bibles after the event? Is it because the Bible can be so divisive and can be blamed for hostility? Given the behavior of Carnegie and Eli, is this an unreasonable view?
~If a major calamity struck, do you think it’s likely that so little recovery would be accomplished in the next 30 years?

Poignant or memorable scenes:
~Eli with the bait woman. Why does he treat her as he does?
~Eli turning down Solara in different ways. Why doesn’t he want her following him?
~The final series of scenes, which I won’t describe in order to not ruin them for you. Why does Eli do what he does? What do you think of his decisions her compared with earlier in the movie?
Overall Grade: A
This fully lived up to my expectations, both in style, entertainment value, and substance. I hope other Christians will see it to support this effort to meld Biblical concepts with a financially viable R movie. By the way, apparently “The Road” with Viggo Mortensen is also quite good and comes out on March 5th, I’m very eager to see it.

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