The Book of Eli
By Jeffrey Anderson,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Future-set action epic is heavy on comic book violence.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
One possible interpretation of the movie is that it has a bone to pick with organized religion, instead celebrating individual spirituality. The villain wants to obtain the last existing Bible and use it for power and control over the "weak and desperate," while the hero's goal is to protect the book and deliver it to a safe place. He reads it regularly, but given his violent nature and loner status, it's not very clear that he's learned anything from it. But (possible spoiler alert) the movie ends with a faith-positive sequence in which the Bible is hopefully reproduced for others and is given a place on the shelf next to the Tanakh and the Quran, suggesting hope and equality for the future.
Positive Role Models
Eli is violent, stubborn, and single-minded, but he does ultimately learn the value of trust and persistence. Occasionally he also shows honor (for example, by refusing to drink alcohol or take advantage of Solora sexually).
Violence & Scariness
Extreme violence, generally of a comic book nature. Eli wields a bow and arrow and shoots both animals and people (sometimes in some very uncomfortable body parts). He also carries an enormous knife, with which he chops off hands, arms and heads. Lots of hand-to-hand combat as Eli fights off crowds of attackers; plenty of gunfights (and hand grenades) as well. The movie shows the impact of the bullets and the arrows -- including those shot at a bird and a cat -- as well as plenty of blood. Viewers see dead (and sometimes decomposing) bodies, and there's a suggestion of cannibalism. Rape and attempted rape are also suggested (sounds of ripping clothes, women's screams) both on-screen and off, in chaotic crowd scenes and, notably, in the case of one important character.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
The future world presented in the movie has the equivalent of prostitutes, though they're only mentioned and rarely seen. A woman tries to seduce Eli by the side of the road by exposing her cleavage (no nudity). Later, Solara is sent to Eli's room while wearing a skimpy, cleavage-revealing dress and ordered to provide him sexual favors (though her orders are more suggested than actually spoken aloud). But Eli refuses to take advantage of her.
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Several uses of "f--k" and "s--t." "P---y," "hell," and "bitch" are also heard. For the record, Eli himself doesn't use foul language.
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Products & Purchases
Some brands survive the apocalypse intact -- Eli cleans himself with (and later trades) little individually wrapped handi-wipes from KFC, and Carnegie uses a bullhorn with "Motorola" clearly marked on the side. Partial sign for Puma shoes.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Background characters drink in a bar, become surly, and assault Eli.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The Book of Eli is very violent -- there's lots of weapon use, body parts getting chopped off, fighting, and dead bodies, as well as suggested rape (sounds of ripping clothes and women's screams) -- and takes place in a bleak future. But it has a "comic book" tone that keeps it from being a total downer, and it actually feels more like a Western than a sci-fi epic, with a loner hero (Denzel Washington) who wanders into a lawless town and tangles with the kingpin (Gary Oldman). The movie's subtext tackles religion: The bad guy wants to use the world's last remaining Bible to control and dominate the "weak and desperate," while the hero wants to deliver the book to a safe place. Expect some sexuality (though no nudity), strong language (including "f--k"), and -- worth mentioning again -- lots of action violence.
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The Book of Eli
Based on 28 parent reviews
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Those who claim this movie is anti-religious are wrong
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What's the Story?
In a post-apocalyptic future, Eli (Denzel Washington) has one goal: to carry the last remaining copy of The Bible toward the West, hoping to find a safe place for it. Meanwhile, he encounters all kinds of villains, scoundrels, and cannibals on the road and must use his weapons and considerable combat skills to get past them. Wandering into a lawless town looking for water, he meets the educated Carnegie (Gary Oldman), who's after a copy of the Bible that he can use to control the townspeople. Eli merely wishes to continue with his mission, but Carnegie won't take no for an answer. Eli's situation gets tougher when he finds himself attached to pretty young runaway Solara (Mila Kunis).
Is It Any Good?
THE BOOK OF ELI is an effective post-apocalyptic action movie with elements from both comic books and Westerns thrown in for good measure. For instance, to protect themselves from the harsh sunlight, all the characters wear sunglasses or goggles, but rather than rendering them impersonal or distant, they only ramp up the movie's cool factor.
The action is exceedingly well directed, exciting, and sometimes surprising, even if the storytelling relies on some tried-and-true chestnuts. Like the best science-fiction tales, it has an underlying agenda -- this time it's mainly about organized religion's use of the Bible -- but the message never outweighs the story's thrust. Washington is powerful as the stoic, loner hero, and Oldman happily chews the scenery as the bad guy. But Kunis' role unfortunately seems little more than a plot device.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about the movie's violence. How does the movie's tone affect the impact of the action/fight scenes? Does it feel realistic?
What do movies set in post-apocalyptic futures (Children of Men, I Am Legend, The Road, etc.) have to say about the way we, as humans, feel at the moment?
What are the movie's messages about religion? Is it trying to make a specific statement about the subject?
- In theaters: January 15, 2010
- On DVD or streaming: June 15, 2010
- Cast: Denzel Washington, Gary Oldman, Mila Kunis
- Directors: Albert Hughes, Allen Hughes
- Inclusion Information: Black directors, Black actors
- Studio: Warner Bros.
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Run time: 118 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: some brutal violence and language
- Last updated: June 2, 2023
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