The 2010 “The Book of Eli” action movie is not just another futuristic post-apocalyptic movie. This production puts bigger questions on the table and debates what role religion plays in our world societies.
The film portrays a post-apocalyptic earth with few survivors fighting for survival. The reason for the apocalypse is not elaborated and most of the movie keeps the viewers in the dark. However, supposedly the world was destroyed about 30 years prior by a nuclear war, some people presume because of religion. The world is now a wasteland of abandoned cars, crumbled buildings and destroyed highways. Water and food are rare commodities only attained by either robbing and killing people or trading other objects between one another.
The main character, played by Denzel Washington, is a man on a quest heading for the far west. He is in the possession of a very important and powerful book; the bible. The bible is a scarcity in this devastated world and therefore must be protected from falling into the wrong hands. Eli is portrayed as a man of God and has been told to follow a path bringing the book to safety where it can bring the world back together. Eli is portrayed as a man of faith and religion and is seen reading the bible every day, doing his prayers and even quoting scriptures. However, the juxtaposition of him being a man of Christianity but also a man of violence really makes one think what this movie wishes to tell us. Eli is swift with a machete and does not hesitate to kill anybody who gets in his way. The movie portrays a world of great violence and no compassion and love, so what does that tell us about religion?
What is really interesting is how religion is being defined in this movie. Eli is supposedly the good guy, a holy man working in the name of God, but yet again he kills for his purpose and does not even help people when they are attacked by a violent gang because he has to stay “on the path”. This all questions the goodness in religion, is he excused because he is a holy man with a greater purpose, or is he just blindly guided by a selfish version of faith? He is shown as a person with some sort of higher power dodging bullets and fighting big groups of highly dangerous killers. But is this a violent depiction that suddenly becomes okay when it is in the name of religion? Can the violence of his self-defense be reconciled with the Christian message of love and compassion?
What is even more interesting is how the movie also portrays the “wrong way” to use religion. Eli’s enemy is the power-hungry town-leader Carnegie who wants the bible for complete other reasons. Carnegie knows what power the bible comes with, and believes he can misuse that power in order to control and influence people’s minds. He wants to use the bible as a ‘weapon’ to lead and control a new nation just as he knows it has been done in the past. So what does this tell us? This definitely leads to another discussion of how much bad comes from religion. Do we actually use religion for the greater good of the people, or have we seen way too many power-hungry people take advantage of our human desire for faith, spirituality and higher meaning?
I will encourage you all to watch this movie and ask yourself some of these questions. I am not a religious person myself, and I truly believe religion does more bad than good, so for me it was very interesting to watch this movie and analyze the different views being questioned. On top of that it is visually a very impressive movie, with great actors and remarkable visual techniques.