The Book of Eli does a fantastic job at entertaining it's audience through action sequences, the mysterious events surrounding Eli's book, and the secondary character arcs going on all around. But what ultimately sells me on this epic post-apocalyptic western is that the title character's mission from the Lord is to deliver the LAST copy of the Bible to Alcatraz where the world is re-building and books are being re-printed, the Bible included.
What I really enjoyed about this film is that Denzel Washington's portrayal of Eli is that of someone who actually cares about his mission from the Lord. He continues to press on no matter what and trusts completely that God will get him through anything. This is something so unheard of in most Hollywood films today. Eli protects his young friend Solara throughout the film and eventually inspires here at the end to go back out into the world and help others.
This review is going to be short, sweet, and to the point overall, but I want to ask a question first. If there are so many supposed Christians in Hollywood then why are there not more films like this? I don't mean violent action flicks, there's enough of those already, but smart, exciting, entertaining films that actually talk about God, Christianity, and the Bible itself. Back in the 50's and 60's we had films like The Ten Commandments and Ben-Hur, now we have films like Exodus: Gods and Kings and Noah. Now, I have yet to see the first two films that I just mentioned, but in seeing the last two (and even though I liked the first of them) I am saddened that that is the best Hollywood can do in terms of bringing the Bible to like. History Channel's The Bible and it's sequel A.D. The Bible Continues (along with the film Son of God) have all done a fairly decent job at this so far, but why are there not more Christians trying to pursue film and television simply to share the Gospel message? Why do we let non-believers pervert what we believe?
That being said, The Book of Eli doesn't necessarily share the Gospel message with it's audience, but it instead shows how powerful faith in God can be and in turn how He provides and how powerful His Word is, even in the hands of evil. The whole reason the villain, Carnegie, wants Eli's Bible (which he later gets and finds out that it's written in braille so that he can't read it as Eli is blind) is because he realizes how powerful it is and that with it he can get anyone to do anything he wants. This is often times true as people throughout history have used the Bible to do evil things, think of the Catholic Church and what they did with the Crusades (I'm not saying everything that happened there was evil, but I certainly don't believe it was all good)!
Eli on the other hand has been wandering across America for 30 years, being lead by the Spirit, trying to get to the West Coast so he can deliver the Bible. Although he ends up loosing it to Carnegie, since he has been reading it every day for so long, he actually has it memorized. At the end of the film, Eli recites the entire King James Version of the Bible to a scribe who writes it all down (Genesis to Revelation) and then re-prints it.
Throughout the film, one of the hints to why nuclear war happened on Earth was because of the Bible in the first place, this is why Eli has the last one, the rest were destroyed. With everything going on in the world nowadays and the open tolerance towards sin and other religions while at the same time the more open hostility towards Christianity, it's not hard to see how this could happen in the future. I'm not saying that The Book of Eli is prophetic in any way, I'm simply stating that the setting of this film could very well be our own in less than a century. This is of course my opinion.
One of the biggest issues with the film that most Christian critics had was that Eli seems to kill people, a lot. He always kills in self-defense, yet he does it often throughout. Honestly, I'm not sure how I feel about this yet. I know that Jesus told His disciples to carry swords and He obviously permitted them to have them (Luke 22:35-39), yet He also said that whoever lives by the sword would die by it (Matthew 26:52), which could easily be why Eli dies at the end of the film due to his injuries. We see that David, Samson, and other kings, prophets, judges, and leaders in the Old Testament were at times commanded to kill! Yet, in the New Testament we are told to turn the other cheek (you know, with the exception of Revelation where Jesus comes back and wipes out all evil everywhere on Earth...). I want to link two articles below that I think really helped me understand a biblical view of self-defense a lot better and although I'm not 100% sure on my stance on it, it's definitely helped shed some light on the issue:
Can Christians Kill in Self-Defense?
One thing about this film that I feel the need to mention, which I didn't at the original time I posted this article but I'm adding in about 12 hours later, is that Eli can easily be seen more as an Old Testament judge or prophet than as a disciple or pastor. Throughout the film, he kills those who are harming others, miraculously survives a fatal gunshot wound for months, is blind yet fights like someone who isn't (or he's just Daredevil...), knows Scripture like the back of his hand, and prophesies when he and Solara will get out of bad situations. No one ever really thinks about what it would be like if biblical judges or prophets were present today, and I think that many people believe that they CAN'T be. But you see, based on Scripture I can't believe that to be true. Acts 2:17-18 talks about how in the last days that there will be MANY who will prophecy and see visions and dreams and it will be because of the Holy Spirit. Ephesians 4:11 talks about how the Spirit has given everyone gifts and jobs, including prophets among pastors, teachers, apostles, and evangelists. I don't see Old Testament judges on that list, but I wouldn't rule it out, especially in post-apocalyptic times as seen in this film.