Is the Bible a tool for manipulating and controlling people? Or is it a civilizing, democratizing force? The Book of Eli asks that question in the context of post-apocalyptic America, in which anarchy reigns and there is no remembered sense of morality, culture, or societal structure. One man believes he holds the key to rebuilding civilization: Eli (Denzel Washington), armed with the sole remaining copy of the Bible.
Eli meets up with Solara (Mila Kunis), the daughter of Carnegie's concubine/slave. She asks Eli, "Do you really read the same book every day?" Eli unhesitatingly responds, "Without fail." He quotes several scriptures on occasion. You do have to admire his devotion to the Bible. He reads and memorizes it daily, and he protects it from all comers, which are legion. Eli's finely honed fighting skills leave any and all attackers dead or dying, such is his passion to continue his quest and protect the Bible.
Eli turns reflective after his final showdown with Carnegie's men. "All the years I've been carrying it and reading it every day I got so caught up in keeping it safe I forgot to live by what I learned from it. Just do for others more than you do for yourself." An overly simplistic and theologically inaccurate summary of scripture, to be sure, but a nice reminder not to worship the book but to live in service to the author. I was reminded of the Fundamentalist takeover of the Southern Baptist Convention. They were so caught up in protecting the Bible from what they perceived as a liberal onslaught that they neglected to love their brothers and sisters in the convention, driving them away through deceptive and evil means.
I really liked this movie. Aside from any theological or moral problems, the overarching theme of Eli's commitment to scripture made the movie for me. Imagine if, unlikely as it may be, all Bibles were destroyed. We could piece together what we've memorized, but to have the words on the page would be irreplaceable. God has given us a tremendous gift in his written word. Eli teaches us to treasure it.
Bottom line, 3 1/2 stars.