The Book of Eli – A Journey to the West

By: Corey Lack

The Book of Eli was a movie released back in 2010, starring Denzel Washington, Gary Oldman, and Mila Kunis. The movie focuses around Washington’s largely unnamed character, typically referred to as “the Drifter” throughout the movie, taking a book somewhere in the west of a nuclear apocalyptic America at the behest of a mysterious voice. This is where I have to put a big ole SPOILER WARNING in here because I can’t say any more about it without giving away some plot points. Eli, in his travels, comes across a number of people that, for different reasons, seek to stand in his way. Not least of these threats is Gary Oldman’s character, Carnegie, who runs a town with an iron fist. Carnegie, the viewers find, has been searching for a mysterious book that he believes will allow him to control not only the town but others as well. He finds this book in the Drifter’s possession, which is the first time the viewer finds out that the book that Eli and Carnegie are willing to kill over is a copy of the bible. On his adventure, the Drifter is joined by Kunis’s character, Solara, who is sort of naïve to what happens outside of the town she grew up in, but is eager to learn all she can and will stand for what she believes to be right.

In terms of the characters, Eli, Carnegie, and Solara are the only ones that really go through any sort of change. Eli starts out focused on getting the book to where it belonged in the West. He refused to get involved in anything else and only defended himself when he was confronted. Even when it was clear he wanted to stop something bad from happening to the innocent, he was more focused on fulfilling his duty and protecting the book, but upon introduction of the very innocent Solara, he puts himself and his mission in jeopardy for the first time to save her. Carnegie, on the other hand, starts out a cold and calculating mastermind, but upon seeing his goal so close, he becomes more frantic and wasteful of his men. Solara, while keeping her morality, goes from a girl who hates violence to someone willing and able to fight by the Drifter’s side.

There are certainly some connections that can be made between this movie and the famous Chinese story, Journey to the West. The Drifter can easily be described as a monk, forsaking most of the human pleasures beyond food, water, and his ipod. Nothing that can distract him from his duty is allowed. There are some differences as well. Eli is as much a protector as a carrier of the religious text for one. For another, he has only one companion.

This movie, while not one of Washington’s best, is certainly an entertaining movie. One of the best parts of the movie is that, unlike a lot of post-apocalyptic movies, it offers hope for the future. That’s how I took the ending. Civilization had a chance to rebuild and learn from its past. I’d definitely recommend this movie and give it 9 drained ipods out of 10.

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