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Book of Eli, The


Stars: Denzel Washington, Gary Oldman, Mila Kunis, Ray Stevenson, Jennifer Beals, Frances de la Tour, Michael Gambon, Evan Jones, Tom Waits, Joe Pingue

Director: The Hughes Brothers

Yet another movie that critics feel obliged to deride only to have moviegoers ignore them and take the film triumphantly to the top of the box-office charts.

However, its success with people who pay to see it shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise given Washington’s powerful performance in the key role of a grim-faced survivor who allows nothing and nobody to stand in his way as he carries the eponymous volume to its destined resting-place in a grim post-apocalyptic world littered with the detritus of a dead civilization and inhabited by stop-at-nothing hijackers eager to kill to get whatever they want. Unfortunately for the would-be killers Washington can maim and kill with the best, displaying a line in machete-wielding martial arts and blazing gunplay that makes aspirant auteur Tarantino seem positively passé.

Oldman sneers up to speed as Washington’s chief adversary, a small town tyrant out to deprive the traveller of his valuable volume, and Kunis adds appropriate glamour as the girl who leaves Goldman’s grip to accompany the traveller - but the film stands or dies with star and co-producer Washington. Fortunately he’s more than up to it. Result – yet another in the current spate of post-apocalyptic thrillers (Carriers, The Road and the comic Zombieland) and one well worth watching for sheer adrenaline-provoking entertainment topped with a superb star performance and fine atmospheric cinematography (Don Burgess) and production design that create a genuinely chilling dead, near monochromatic world.

(By the way, it's not all doom and gloom - Gambon and de la Tour are unintentionally hilarious as murderous survivors whose ludicrous American accents could raise laughs from a headless corpse).

Alan Frank

USA 2010. UK Distributor: Entertainment Film Distributors. Colour.
118 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 1, Violence/Horror 2, Drugs 0, Swearing 2.

Review date: 17 Jan 2010