The Films of the Hughes Brothers
Menace II Society
The Book of Eli (July 22/10)
The Hughes Brothers' first film since 2001's From Hell, The Book of Eli transpires within a post-apocalyptic wasteland and follows one man (Denzel Washington's Eli) as he attempts to make his way to the coast - with his efforts inevitably complicated by a tyrannical figure named Carnegie (Gary Oldman). The familiarity of the premise - this is, after all, essentially a Western - is generally alleviated by the superb performances and the stylish visuals, as filmmakers Allen and Albert Hughes effectively establish the movie's desolate atmosphere and the less-than-savory figures that live within. The brothers' hyperactive directorial choices are admittedly an appropriate fit for the film's larger-than-life universe, yet it's just as clear that the pair have a tendency to occasionally bog the proceedings down with rather needless instances of cinematic trickery (ie let's ease up on the slow motion, guys). The unexpectedly deliberate pace ensures that the viewer is never quite able to wholeheartedly embrace the spare narrative, with the inclusion of a few overtly compelling interludes - ie Eli and three others find themselves under attack from a barrage of weapons fire in a sequence that unfolds in a single take - ensuring that the movie ultimately does come off as a rather uneven piece of work (ie it's only truly engrossing in fits and starts). Having said that, The Book of Eli does benefit substantially from its undeniably stunning twist ending - which, though perhaps not destined to hold up too well to close scrutiny, is certainly impressive in its audaciousness and easily ranks alongside The Sixth Sense and Orphan as one of the best contemporary examples of its kind. The final result is a watchable endeavor that should please fans of the genre, with Washington's expectedly stirring turn as the title character standing out as the film's most potent weapon (alongside that jaw-dropping finale, of course).