The Book of Eli is a 2010 American post-apocalyptic, dystopian, neo-Western and action-thriller-drama epic film directed by the Hughes brothers, written by Gary Whitta, and starring Denzel Washington, Gary Oldman, Mila Kunis, Ray Stevenson, and Jennifer Beals.
The story revolves around Eli, a nomad in a post-apocalyptic world, who is told by a voice to deliver his copy of a mysterious book to a safe location on the West Coast of the United States. The history of the post-war world is explained along the way, as is the importance of Eli's task. Filming began in February 2009 and took place in New Mexico.
The film was released in theaters in January 2010. Alcon Entertainment financed and co-produced the film with Silver Pictures, while it was distributed by Warner Bros. in the United States; international sales were handled by Summit Entertainment.
Thirty years after a nuclear apocalypse, Eli (Denzel Washington) travels on foot toward the west coast of the former United States. Along the way he demonstrates uncanny survival and fighting skills, hunting wildlife and swiftly defeating a group of highway bandits who try to ambush him. Searching for a source of water, he arrives in a ramshackle town built and overseen by Carnegie (Gary Oldman). Carnegie dreams of building more towns and of controlling the people by using the power of a certain book. His henchmen scour the desolate landscape daily in search of it, but to no avail.
In the local town bar, a gang of bikers attacks Eli, but he kills them all. Realizing Eli is a literate man like himself, Carnegie asks Eli to stay, although making it clear that the offer is non-negotiable. After Carnegie's blind mistress Claudia (Jennifer Beals) gives Eli some food and water, Carnegie orders Claudia's daughter Solara (Mila Kunis) to seduce Eli. Eli turns her down, but she discovers he has a book in his possession. Eli offers to share his food with her. Before they eat, though, he has her pray with him. The following day, Solara prays with her mother. Carnegie overhears them and realizes Solara's words may relate to the book he has been seeking. He forces Solara to tell him Eli was reading a book. When he asks what kind, she says she does not know, but forms a cross with her two index fingers. Carnegie realizes Eli has a copy of the book he wants. Eli sneaks out of his room and goes to the store across the street, where he had earlier given the Engineer (Tom Waits) his portable music player to recharge the battery.
Carnegie has his henchmen shoot at Eli, but the bullets seemingly just graze him, as if he is being protected. Eli shoots most of Carnegie's men and hits Carnegie in the leg with a shotgun blast. Solara leads Eli to the town's water supply, hoping she can accompany him on his travels. Eli traps her inside and continues on alone. Solara escapes and soon finds herself ambushed by two bandits who attempt to rape her, but Eli appears and kills them.
As they continue on, Eli explains his mission to Solara. According to Eli, his book is the last remaining copy of the Bible, as all other copies were intentionally destroyed following the nuclear war. He says he was led to the book by a voice in his head, which then directed him to travel westward to a place where it would be safe. The voice assured him that he would be protected on his journey. Thus, for the last thirty years he has been traveling west, guided by his faith.
Eventually, Eli and Solara investigate an isolated house. They fall into a hidden pit, but manage to allay the suspicions of the residents, Martha (Frances de la Tour) and George (Michael Gambon), who invite them in for tea. When Eli realizes that the couple are cannibals, they attempt to leave, but then Carnegie and his posse arrive. In the ensuing shootout, George, Martha and some of Carnegie's men are killed. Eli and Solara are captured. When Carnegie threatens to kill Solara, Eli gives him the Bible. Carnegie shoots him, and leaves him for dead.
Solara escapes and drives back to help Eli. Rather than chase her, Carnegie returns to the town since his sole remaining vehicle is running low on fuel. Solara picks up Eli. They drive until they reach the Golden Gate Bridge. They then row to Alcatraz, where they find a group intent on saving what they can of civilization. Eli tells the guards that he has a copy of the King James version of the Bible. Once inside, Eli, who is revealed to be blind, begins to dictate the Bible from memory to Lombardi (Malcolm McDowell), the leader of the group.
Meanwhile, back in the town, Carnegie opens the locked Bible, but discovers that it is in Braille. He orders Claudia to read it to him, but she refuses, telling Carnegie his leg wound has become infected. As he realizes he is going to die, order breaks down, and the residents start looting.
At the sanctuary, Eli has died, but not before he finished reciting the Bible. The printing press at Alcatraz begins making copies of the New King James Version of the Bible. Lombardi places one on a bookshelf between the Torah and Tanakh on one side and the Qur'an on the other. Solara, though offered sanctuary, chooses to return home, taking with her Eli's possessions, intending to bring the Bible to her home and better life for the people there.
In May 2007, Columbia Pictures and Warner Bros. signed the Hughes brothers to direct The Book of Eli, based on a script by Gary Whitta. (The brothers had last directed the 2001 film From Hell.) Subsequently Anthony Peckham rewrote the script, and in September 2008 Denzel Washington won the lead role. The following October, Gary Oldman was cast to star alongside Washington. Principal photography began in February 2009 and took place in New Mexico. Alcon Entertainment financed the film and co-produced with Silver Pictures.
Jeff Imada choreographed the complex fight scenes, which feature the Filipino martial art of Kali. Denzel Washington trained for months with Dan Inosanto and Jeff Imada for his role.
The film was released in North America on January 15, 2010 in 3,111 theaters. It took in $11,672,970—$3,752 per theater, its opening day. By the end of its opening four-day holiday weekend it grossed $38,437,553—$12,355 per theater. It ranked number two, behind Avatar. On its second weekend, it placed third with Legion taking its number two place and grossed $15,732,493—$5,057 per theater. By its third weekend it dropped down to number five and made $8,908,286—$2,897 per theater. The film has come to gross $94,835,059 in the United States and Canada, and $62,256,659 in other markets, with an estimated worldwide total of $157,091,718.
The film has received mixed reviews from critics. Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports that 48% of 188 critics have given the film a positive review, with a rating average of 5.5 out of 10. The site's consensus is that "It's certainly uneven, and many viewers will find that its reach exceeds its grasp, but The Book of Eli finds the Hughes brothers injecting some fresh stylish fun into the kind of post-apocalyptic wasteland filmgoers have seen more than enough of lately." Metacritic, which assigns a weighted average score out of 0–100 reviews from film critics, has a rating score of 53 based on 33 reviews.
Todd McCarthy of Variety predicted "this will not be one of ... Denzel Washington's bigger grossers." Chicago Sun-Times critic Roger Ebert gave the film 3 of 4 stars and said of the film: "You won't be sorry you went. It grips your attention, and then at the end throws in several WTF! moments, which are a bonus." Reviewing the film for The A.V. Club, Scott Tobias graded the film a B, and wrote "At a time when theaters are experiencing a glut of doomsday scenarios, the Hughes' ashen, bombed-out future world looks a little too familiar, no matter how crisply they present it. But the showdown between Washington and a deliciously hammy Oldman complicates the film's overt religiosity..." Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly gave the film a D, calling it "a ponderous dystopian bummer that might be described as The Road Warrior without car chases, or The Road without humanity.
The film was released on DVD and Blu-ray Disc on May 31, 2010 in the UK and on June 15, 2010 in the United States and Canada. The DVD took the top spot on all three national home video market charts in its first week. It premiered No. 1 on Home Media Magazine's Rental Chart, the Nielsen Videoscan Blu-ray chart, and the Nielsen VideoScan First Alert Sales Chart, where it outdistanced its nearest competitor in sales by a 3 to 1 margin.