This weekend Carly and I went to see The Book of Eli, starring Denzel Washington. Eli is filled with bloody fight scenes, engaging cinematography, and intense mystery.  I won’t tell you too much; I don’t want to be a spoiler.  But here’s a quick premise.

In post-apocalyptic, wasteland America,  Washington plays Eli, a sunglass-wearing, nomadic warrior who has a good heart but isn’t afraid to finish a fight. He’s been walking across the country for the past 30 years, since the ‘last war.’  The war caused a rip in the ozone layer, bringing about a bright flash from the sun which incinerated most of the world. There are no more amenities or grocery stores or booming metropolises. Clean water is hard to find and bartering everyday items is the new currency.

Eli travels with nothing more than a backpack, a water canteen, a machete, a sawed-off shot gun, and a thick leather-bound Bible.  Gary Oldman co-stars as Carnegie, a power hungry man who covets Eli’s book, the only one that survived the “flash”.  Washington is on a mission to find the place where it will be read, respected, and treasured.

What I want to comment on is the role the Bible plays in this film.  I don’t know what the directors mean to do, but the Bible is the central focus — more so than Washington’s character, in my opinion.  How gutsy of the directors to make a movie where the Bible is the only book wanted and needed in America!  This movie made me want to read my Bible more and know it better.  It won’t take long the viewer long to find out that most of the people Eli’s age died in the war or passed soon thereafter.  Since the Bible he owns is the only one left, most of these young people have never heard of God or learned how to pray.  Imagine a world where no one knows John 3:16.  Imagine a world where no one takes the Lord’s name in vain because they haven’t even heard his name.  This is Eli’s world.  Everyone is in survival mode, and murdering for a cup of water or a battery is all in a day’s business.  Society has fallen apart.  Chaos has taken over, and there will be no restoration until God’s word has been spread.  What a concept.

Carnegie wants Eli’s Book, not for spiritual growth, but to control the people of the towns he is rebuilding across the country.  His plan is to use it for selfish gain and prosperity.  Viewing the movie through theological lenses, Carnegie plays the role of a greedy prosperity pastor.  Just like Carnegie, pastors who espouse the prosperity gospel peddle God’s word for selfish gain.  They don’t want the Bible to be read, respected, and treasured in order to taste and see the glory of Jesus Christ.  They want to use and manipulate the Bible for their sinful desires.

Whether it’s money or power or possessions or fame, the desire for anything other than Jesus will only lead to destructionThe Book of Eli beautifully paints this reality.  Whether the directors meant to or not.

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9 thoughts on “The Book of Eli

  1. I saw this movie and loved it, however, I had very mixed feelings about the ending. I didn’t like how the bible was put on a shelf next to all the other “holy books.” The whole movie put so much emphasis on how important the bible was, yet at the end of the day it was just another holy book. Kind of disappointing.

  2. When Amy and I saw it, we were on a double date with another married couple (Jake and Twila) and we all seemed to agree that the book made us feel that there was MORE we could be doing for God. Eli spent the last half of his life reading the bible so much that he had it memorized. We also talked about the aspect of the bloody violence in the movie and pondered how it will be recieved among Christian circles. To us, it seemed like the movie was straight out of God-fearing, anger old prophet book. God’s prophets of old experienced violence in much greater ways than in the movie, though that isn’t what I’m advocating, but the idea that Eli was willing to take action to protect the sanctity and uphold his beliefs. Amy and I were excited to hear that you saw it as well and were wondering if your thoughts would have been similar to ours. Yay!

  3. This shows you (me) that you (I) can’t judge a “book” (movie) by its cover, or by its trailer. I would never have wanted to see this movie. It didn’t seem to fit in what I want to see when I go to be entertained. After your review and the additional comments, I now need to see this movie. I will run down to Red Box tonight, just kidding.

  4. I was thinking about writing my own short review of the movie, but I would go too far into detail and give way too much away, but you hit the nail on the head. I loved the line “People had more than they needed; didn’t know what was precious in life.” It would be interesting to find out Denzel’s spiritual viewpoints. I feel like he has to have some sort of background in the church.

  5. Chuck, Denzel is a brother. That is why he took this movie. He also made the directors/writers put more of the “Jesus” stuff back into the movie after they were afraid they couldn’t sell it. It’s a lot more complex, but fascinating none the less. Google it, you should find something.

    James, I agree with you, except you forgot to me one of the most important details of this movie. The missional aspect of this story. From him going to just reading the book to living it out (I don’t want to give away the story, but you should know the scene I’m talking about) along with the ending where the missional aspect comes full circle (again, don’t want to ruin the ending). It was epic.

  6. This was the only movie I’ve been to that I honestly had a difficult time keeping myself from cheering out loud for Eli. It left me leaving the theatre with a desire to do something radical for Christ. What a great picture it paints of the need for the Bible to be reproduced, distributed and preached. Makes me want to go into an unreached people group with my Bible, (minus the sawed off shotgun and machete). Thanks for posting your thoughts James.

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