We saw the movie when it first made it to 'video' (which now means a downstreaming medium) because of Denzel Washington. I watch most of it every time I'm flicking through channels and find it on, and each time I'm struck by the depth and truth of the faith storyline.
The mark of a good movie is reaching the end and realizing there was so much more going on that you have to watch it again within the new context. The Book of Eli had that 'aha' moment.
If you can get past the edginess of the language and action there is a story here I recommend you see. For those who won't watch this movie read on...others, be aware of the **SPOILER** to follow.
The 'flash' that brought the world to the end-as-we-know-it is at least 25 years past. Small enclaves of settlements grouped for protection against marauders, all searching for food and water, is the setting.
Our hero (Eli) is traveling with a mission along the dangerous highways deftly capable of protecting himself.
The antagonist (Carnegie) rules the village and the water source with a quick, strong fist. He is searching for a book with an evil urgency.
We learn, as the story unfolds,that religions were blamed for the flash and subsequently all books were destroyed in the melee. Carnegie is old enough to know before the flash and the power the Holy Bible and faith had over people. He is certain if he possesses these scriptures he can bring all people that are left under his rule.
Eli stops in the village to trade, his prowess as a fighter is noticed, Carnegie tries to persuade Eli to join him, forcing Eli to stay the night while providing food and entertainment. Eli says grace over his meal and Carnegie learns Eli has 'the book.'
The remainder of the story is the chase. Eli loses the book but escapes to finish his journey to Alcatraz where a group has managed to rescue 'items that were'. They have a large selection of books and are close to restoring a printing press. They do not have a Holy Bible.
Eli says he has a copy and needs the curator to get a lot of paper and to write everything he says, exactly as he says it. As Eli begins to recite the scriptures we discover that the copy of the book Eli was carrying was a braille copy of the Holy Bible that he, as a blind man, has memorized.
Eli is a flawed hero that is convinced he has been called to a higher purpose. His character is an excellent example of the remanent, promised to survive in an evil world where consequences must be lived and the promised road is fraught with danger and temptations.
Carnegie is a chilling example of those who understand the power of God and faith then twist it to their own purpose.
We so often want a pristine religious experience where we meet people, just like us, in a bright and shining environment, wearing masks of piety, waving our hands in praise then locking the door and leaving God in His building until the next Sunday.
The Book of Eli takes a rough look at where our true religious experiences manifest, in the gritty day to day. The confusion of the masses, the calling of the few to minister amidst curiosity and fear, the evil that morphs and twists the Word, providing fake answers and offering false hope.
The message (intended or not by the producers) is one believers cling to. Within the darkness of filth and volence God's light will shine. His work will be accomplished and no matter what manner of horror the world can produce He will be victorious.