Book of Eli – Film Review
I have to say that I’m not an avid fan of “sci-fi/post-apocalyptic/end-of-the-world”-type of movies. I’d watch some here and there but it’s not my favorite genre. If it wasn’t for Jennifer Beals, I wouldn’t have gone to the pre–screening of “Book of Eli” though.
So this is my first non-academic attempt at writing a movie review and I have to warn you that I may be biased because of Jennifer Beals… who would have thought…
I got the invitation from Warner Bros, and so I ended up in Los Angeles’ Mann Chinese Theater on this beautiful, sunny Saturday with a free popcorn and soda; so far so good. I had no idea what to expect, but from the very beginning, I was drawn to the intense music score and powerful, breathtaking cinematography.
The plot is pretty simple: It’s a story about the journey of one brave man who heard a voice, telling him to find a certain book and take it west where it’s needed to build a new foundation. Eli (Denzel Washington) has been on his journey for 30 years, when a war pretty much destroyed the earth and killed most of its population.
While Eli is travelling with the book, there’s a villain named Carnegie (Gary Oldman) who is looking for the same book. They both need it but for different purposes. As far as Eli and Carnegie are concerned, they represent the good and the evil. As usual the bad guy has a bunch of ugly fellows who support him in reining this town that barely survived the apocalypse.
Jennifer Beals plays Carnegie’s common-law wife called Claudia. Their first scene doesn’t show any signs that their relationship may be in trouble. Claudia is blind and therefore she is very sensitive to things. She recognizes right away how different Eli is from the others who came to this town. She even warns Carnegie: “He’s not like the others. You won’t be able to make him do what you want.”
Everything changes when Eli shows up there and, after demonstrating an almost miraculous strength, power and intelligence that most of Carnegie’s goons are lacking, Carnegie asks him to join his gang. Eli politely declines because he’s on a mission and has to stay on track. This is when Carnegie learns that Eli possesses the book he wants. After that revelation the movie becomes all about protecting the book and survival.
I’m not going to give away the rest you have to watch it yourself. Instead, I will tell you more about Jennifer Beals’ character and her performance.
In the production notes, there’s a quote from one of the directors, Allen Hughes, who credits Beals with “playing all their tortured history in her face. There’s not a lot of dialogue so she communicates a lot through her body language and her expressions.”
Jennifer appears in about six or seven scenes and her whole screen time is quite short but she plays a very important character; the one that finds her strength in the end to turn from a subdued slave to a free woman. The director was right, up until the end Jennifer barely has any lines but her performance is very powerful when she uses her wide range of facial expressions and body language to convey her emotions.
What I liked most was her transformation at the end when Claudia discovers something that gives her the power to stand up to Carnegie. The transformation of Jennifer’s face and voice is priceless. I thought I got a glimpse at Bette Porter for a quick moment.
When asked about Jennifer in her latest interview, Mila Kunis says: “I love her! We had a very strange mother-daughter relationship, considering she would have had to have me at a very young age, in real life. In the film, it works completely, but in real life, we’re closer in age. But, she’s great. I love Jennifer. I think she steals the movie. She’s fantastic in it. She was absolutely a joy to work with.”
And for me personally this is the truth: Jennifer does steal the show because it’s not something you would expect from her character and because she is really authentic in her portrayal of a blind woman, especially the way she moves and talks.
If you are a fan of Jennifer Beals, you should go and watch it. I enjoyed the movie and every time Jennifer appeared on the screen it brought a smile to my face.