The Book of Eli is a very good action film with very odd religious overtones. Sure, it's warmed over Road Warrior but it's really good warmed over Road Warrior.
The movie opens in some sort of atmospheric forest chock full of dead bodies that are sure to attract vermin. This is what a lone bow hunter is counting on as he sees a cat come along that thinks it's really lucked out as it starts munching on some dead guy's foot just before it gets an arrow in the gut and becomes a meal for Denzel Washington's Eli. Eli is a nomad wandering the country thirty years after a nuclear war destroyed everything including all the annoying busybodies who nagged us to disarm. I bet their last thoughts involved wishing they'd spent more time getting laid. Anyway, Eli quickly establishes himself as a superior fighter as he almost effortlessly takes out a band of thugs who try to rob and kill him. Eli then wanders into what I think are the ruins of Flagstaff, Arizona that has become one of humanity's first attempts at rebuilding civilization. By that, I mean a megalomaniac named Carneghie (Gary Oldman) has gone into full Bartertown mode by convincing a gang of well armed toughs to help him throw together a feudal dictatorship. You may get shot at any moment but, sadly, it's still better than facing the gangs of cannibals that roam the landscape outside of town.
Eli only wants to buy some water, get his iPod recharged (seriously) and continue on his mysterious journey. Naturally, this means some asshole used to pushing people around makes the mistake of trying it with Eli. Carneghie decides he wants a guy with Eli's combat skills to work for him but Eli wants no part of it even when he's offered a night in bed with Solara (Mila Kunis), the world's last hot girl. I've grown to like Mila Kunis over the past few years which is odd since I used to find her annoying. These days, though, I usually like it when she shows up in a movie even if the movie isn't that good. Solara makes the mistake of letting Carneghie know that Eli has a Bible and this is where the movie gets dumb. Apparently, after the war, all survivors everywhere decided to burn all Bibles. Why they would do that and let copies of The Da Vinci Code survive is beyond me. Eli said some people thought the Bible was responsible for the war. I just read a story a few hours ago about survivors of the Haitian earthquake meeting in a church with no roof to sing the praises of the God who allowed them to be survivors but, if this post-Apocalyptic world didn't destroy all its Bibles, the movie would be denied a major plot point so into the bonfire they went.
Carneghie wants the Bible because he thinks he can use it to rally the weak minded masses to his cause. Eli, being the pious and religious man he is, shoots his way out of town with the book, just as Jesus would have done. When Solara catches up with him down the road, he tells her that, thirty years earlier, a voice told him to keep the book safe and head west so he's been heading west ever since along roads that are amazingly intact considering there has been zero investment in highway infrastructure since the war.
I won't even give a clue as to what it is but the movie has a big twist ending that involves the nature of the book. Frankly, I think it makes the whole story impossible but it did explain a few things I was wondering about and, even if you hated it, I don't think it makes the basic action/adventure part of the movie any less entertaining.
What I really want to discuss is the odd penchant for people to claim that the movie has a deeply Christian message. Let me break that Christian message down for you. God so loves his children, the people of Earth, that He only allowed 99% of them to die horribly in a nuclear holocaust. For the sake of His beloved children who survive, the Lord Our God will make sure that only 99% of them are thugs, thieves and cannibals who mercilessly rape anything female. But do not worry, Children of God. Your Savior, Jesus Christ, will send a knife wielding fanatic to spread God's message of peace and love by using a machete to chop up anyone who tries to stop him. Also, don't be gay or have premarital sex. Amen.
Despite its flaws, The Book of Eli is a well done action film. Don't ask it to make sense or teach you anything and you should have a good time.