“The Book of Eli” was one of my favorite “end of the world as we know it” movies. It didn’t hurt to have Denzel Washington as the star, a role in he played excellently.
The movie is set in the future, and we see a treeless, pock-marked landscape without the millions of people who are present today. The world is sparsely populated, most people apparently killed off by some event, probably nuclear.
Denzel possesses a Bible, and his self-appointed task is to get his book to a safe place somewhere on the west coast.
In this version of the future, people have learned to survive by trading – money as we know it today has no value. There is no longer any formal “law enforcement,” just various random thugs, and thugs who work for a big thug. There is no infrastructure, no fire department, no grocery stores, no electricity. We see no farms where either plants or animals are raised. In fact, we hardly see any plants or trees at all – maybe the soil is spoiled from the results of some future warfare.
And we get hints that some have reverted to cannibalism. Violence and depravity are the norm.
A strong thug is the leader of what may one day become a town. This thug wants to find a Bible so that he may use it to exert power over other people. When he learns that Denzel might have a Bible, the basic plot and drama of the movie become clear.
In some ways, this movie shows a harsh view of the future, presented in such a way that you believe it could be possible.
The setting is not so far-fetched and the story of Denzel and what he does makes this somewhat of a secular Savior story, including the notion that he may return again, in some form.
The harshness of the world made me realize that I’d never want to live in such a bleak world. Thus, watching this movie made me want to fight even harder to protect all that I believe is good and right in our world.
And besides the entertainment value, and besides the “big picture” message, there were some excellent teaching moments where each of us could learn a few things.
For example, everyone traded. In this harsh world, piece of paper had no meaning, and certainly no value. If you wanted or needed something, you had to barter with material goods or services that the other person needed or wanted. Very basic, to the point. And how many of us realize that general commerce in today’s society cannot continue without the electricity that powers our machines? And what about the electronic transfers of “money” from place to place, and our reliance on the credit card? Most of our modern societies are constantly in a state of near-emergency, but we barely realize it. Learning to barter is a step in the right direction.
There was another scene in the movie where a young woman was asking Denzel what it was like before “the event.” Denzel thoughtfully responded that the people back then – us, today – had far more than they needed. Indeed! So many of us lust after more and more physical stuff to fill our lives, and it never seems to bring happiness. We then toss the objects into the landfills as we seek other material objects to give us happiness and give our lives meaning. How many Americans are aware of the fact that even the very poorest amongst us live lives that are far better than millions of people in third world conditions?
Yes, “Book of Eli” is an excellent movie on many levels. You can rent or buy the DVD and enjoy it with your family, followed by a lively discussion of what it all means.