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Blu-ray Review: The Book of Eli

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Released in theaters earlier this year, The Book of Eli received mixed reviews from critics. It seemed for every positive, glowing review there was one that knocked the film down a few pegs. Now, just a few months later, the film has been released on home video. Do the opinions of those nay-saying critics hold up with this Blu-ray release?

For starters let's just say that The Book of Eli is by no means a perfect movie. There are little holes in the plot and other things that pull viewers out of the experience. With that being said, this film offers an incredible and unique experience. It's a part action, part supernatural film set in a post apocalyptic America and it conveys a hefty religious theme. There are many things The Book of Eli tries to be, and when the pieces come together it works quite well. The real feather in the cap here is Denzel Washington, who turns in a fantastic performance as a lone man on a mission from God.

The film follows a man named Eli (Washington) as he wanders the wastelands of America trying to find his way west. The road is full of dangers ranging from dehydration to starvation, roving gangs, and cannibals. Eli has become a hardened man, but he has faith in his journey for he has been told by God that as long as he protects the book, he himself will be protected. Eli possesses the sole remaining copy of the Bible left in the world and God has decreed that he bring it west.

While on his journey Eli comes upon a town run by a man named Carnegie (Gary Oldman) who is searching for the book. Carnegie wants the book for its power over people, and he believes that with the tome in his hands he can create a new world where he would be king. With that kind of aspiration he is willing to do anything to get his hands on it, so he and Eli become enemies rather quickly. The film shifts gears from this point and sees Eli attempting to continue west while avoiding Carnegie and his gang.

In many ways the story stands out as a way to showcase the horrors of the post-apocalypse world, but it also serves as a love story about The Bible. There are some strong religious aspects to the film as one might expect, and those elements are nicely portrayed. Quite honestly, I found that the atmosphere of the film held the biggest draw for me.

At this point in Eli's journey, he has been on the road for thirty years, which is basically one year after the world as we know it ended. There was a great war that caused the sunlight to come through unfiltered, which burned the world and decimated all life on the planet. Only those who were in shelters or underground were spared, and there's no society or rules, except every man for himself. Old timers are the only ones who remember the world before the war, and there are references to things such as TV, books, and pop-culture. Eli even found a way to keep his iPod charged so he can listen to some music to keep from becoming insane.

One of the real stars of the film, however, is the fantastically choreographed action sequences. Every single time Eli comes face to face with an opponent there's just an animalistic sense of foreboding. The film really gives the impression that Eli can't be touched, and yet, when watching it for the first time you start to wonder if that is all in his head. Is he protected by the divine? Or does he simply think he is? The Book of Eli capitalizes on this to really create an air of mystery around the man that truly makes the character stand out.

From start to finish The Book of Eli is a powerful film. It's a post-apocalyptic piece about the destruction and rebirth of humanity, and it's very unpredictable. Many twists and turns are thrown at viewers while they watch, and one never knows how things are going to wind up until the very end. The Book of Eli should be considered highly recommended.

The Book of Eli is presented on Blu-ray with a 2.35:1 aspect ratio and full 1080p high definition with VC-1 codec. As one might expect, Eli isn't a colorful film. The palette is severely muted with varying degrees of browns, blacks, and grays taking the center stage. Sparse flickers of color dot the landscape, and the most vibrant element of the palette is the sky, which features clouds with burnt lime green edges. With such a muted palette it's the sharp quality of the video that takes the center stage. Textures in this film are presented in glorious detail and in that sense there's a great deal of contrast as Eli walks the path. Splintered wood, grainy sand, and shiny metal are fantastically captured. In close-ups the detail is so strong you can almost count the stubble on Denzel's face.

The sound quality on this Blu-ray is exemplary as well. The DTS-HD Master Audio English 5.1 track really punches through the soundstage with some fantastic quality. As an apocalyptic film, Eli comes to life with stark details, whipping winds, and only the sound of footsteps to accompany its lead character as he wanders down the road. Occasionally brilliant pieces of music trickle into the scene and dialogue comes through loud and clear. The real highlight is the sense of immersion the film crafts with an abundance of gunshots, metal against metal, and all many of explosives. It's an impressive mix that will draw viewers into the depressively fascinating world.

The Book of Eli offers up a nice supply of bonus material as well. For starters this release features the Blu-ray disc, a DVD, and a Digital Copy for your PC or iPod. The main feature of this disc is the "Maximum Movie Mode Survival Guide", which essentially takes the place of a traditional commentary. While watching the film with this mode activated, picture-in-picture displays pop up with relevant information from the production crew and cast. It's an interactive way to watch the film that gives viewers more than usual from audio commentaries. Featurettes included in this presentation can be found by themselves in the "Focus Points" section of the disc.

Plenty of production extras are included here as well. "Starting Over" (13:03) and "Eli's Journey" (17:54) look at the post-apocalyptic society and examine how the world could possibly be when it all happens. It looks at several elements of the film, the direction the plot took, and the world around Eli. In addition to these, there's also an examination of the film's marvelous soundtrack, a selection of deleted scenes, and an animated short with background on Carnegie's childhood.

The Book of Eli is a powerful film that gradually ups the ante as it progresses. The religious tone may be a little overbearing at times, but the fascinating take on the post-apocalyptic world, action, and mystery surrounding its main character more than make up for it. Anyone looking for a fascinating and unique picture will find it here. This Blu-ray release also hits home with some fantastic picture and audio quality. A nice selection of bonus features helps round the package out. Overall this release is highly recommended. .

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