A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What 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.
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 are the movie's messages about religion? Is it trying to make a specific statement about the subject?
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