It's been thirty years since an apocalyptic event and the world is very different from anything that we know. Cities are inhospitable wastelands where people live in small settlements and fight over water and food, things that they once freely wasted. Guided by the higher power Eli, a survivor of the cataclysmic war, is in possession of a book that might just hold the key to the future of all humanity. A peaceful man who wants nothing more than to continue on his chosen path, Eli has unbelievable skills as a warrior and he doesn't think twice before killing whenever his mission is challenged.
Eli enters a town run by Carnegie, a man in the pursuit of the very book that Eli guards with his life. Like Eli, Carnegie is one of the very few older people who knew how things were before the catastrophe and he uses his knowledge to control others. He might offer unlimited fresh water to people but knows the importance of the book to really rule over people. Carnegie sends Solara to lure Eli but she undergoes a transformation once Eli reads a passage from the book. After a long chase and a bloody battle Carnegie shoots Eli and manages to lay his hands on the Book. A mortally wounded Eli is helped by Solara on his journey west. Eli finally reaches his destination and tells the curator Lombardi that he has in his possession the very book that Carnegie took from him. A dying Eli finally reveals the secret of the book.
Directed by the Hughes Brothers, The Book of Eli might be a stylized gritty action flick but it does possess a heart. The film plays like a regular western set in a post- apocalyptic world and just about rises above the genre but the screenplay is a tad below the big idea that it talks about. Denzel Washington is well cast as a modern day messiah and wonderfully underplays Eli almost to the extent of deadpan in contrast to Gary Oldman whose Carnegie is very animated like the usual villains.
The film never really explains the reason for the event that has rendered earth in its current condition but doesn't make any bones about the suffering that follows. The depiction of state of the world is mesmeric and sparse dialogue allows you to concentrate on the visuals. The film has a strong religious subtext working throughout the duration but also has some excellent set pieces with really well choreographed action sequences. Balancing equally on both sides of plausibility, the ending of the film could be a big aha moment or a big let down depending on how you see things. Nevertheless The Book of Eli largely works.