The first thing I noticed and liked, was that the palate (color scheme, cinematography) of this film reflects the characters, and atmosphere in it. At times almost black and white, and gray only. Grim, drained, heavy, dry and... Apocalyptic? Yes, sure is. The sound is also in good company with that sentiment as well. When the appropriate score isn't being heard, we hear... wind whistling. Dirty scratching. Fire burning or water being sipped carefully from canteens. Cicadas, uh, Cicada-ing. The occasional bird in the sky flapping or cawing.
But wait! There's more!
The story revolves around Eli (Washington), a loner, who is charged to journey west in order to deliver his copy of a book, the very last remaining King James Version of the Bible, to a safe location. Since the war, the world has become lawless and faithless, he deems it his duty to change it all around. Until he encounters Solara (Kunis) and the menacing Carnegie(Oldman). The his journey really begins.
The Hughes Brothers understand this film means a lot to the career they don't have much of. 4 films and 1 documentary over a span of 17 years isn't much. Their inaugural film, Menace II Society had it cultural impact fa sho, and the Alan Moore comic book adaptation From Hell (their last piece of work) the 2001 Johny Depp starrer, was virtually a bust. (I still liked it, and it had many redeeming qualities but that doesn't count if the rest of the world didn't, ya know?) But here, they know, coming out of the wood-work, they have a lot to prove, saying, "Yeah, we take our time with projects, but so what, when we can do this." And their "this", was well done too. This film takes it's time, tells stories instead of stupid flash backs, get's flashy and visual, but never without merit (or over the top), and utilizes the characters it has with Oldman, Kunis, and Washington. Nice work fellas.
Kunis is tough, but that doesn't mean she can't be a chick too. She cries, she get gets scared, she understands the art of pain, the feeling of love and faith, and the importance of a future. She does these things very well. The last time I saw her in something (Max Payne) her tough-girl character was forced and harshly acted, it was a shame. 'Cuz she did so well in Forgetting Sarah Marshall. Really, I was impressed she brought an A game to it. She's done the same here with a easy opportunity to fuck it up, like so many other actresses could have. I'm glad she's just feisty instead of a martial arts, weapons expert who can do anything without getting a scratch. Those chicks are really annoying, not 'cuz there chicks, but 'cuz it seems to be done all the time for the sake of having some cool badass chick, instead of a real reason. Ya know?
Denzel is an all-around B A and a "Not a scratch on me" action master. But then of course, Denzel can sell someone snow in the North Pole, so that's okay. He sometimes uses words from the bible on his enemies or others he encounters, or sometimes from Johnny Cash. But at his core, he uses his soul to guide his journey to put the book in the right hands, and implement it's teachings in his world around him. It's a good as it sounds.
Oldman's Carnegie is reading a book about Mussolini the first time we meet him. Hmmm... Appropriate considering he has one town under his control, and is looking to branch out for another two. What i really liked is that his character gets more un-wound the more the story progresses once he knows about the book Eli is carrying. It was awesome character arching. Every step Carnegie takes closer to the book is more of his internal and external undoing. Oldman fleshes this out as good as you'd think too, C'mon son! This is Gary baby!
Much like their last work, From Hell, adaptation exists inside the journey we take along with Eli. Not with the script, but in the direction. The Hughes venture into the correct territory for bringing this film to life. They tell, more or less, an honest account of things, with no restraints on the dangers of how life works for every one now. Who knew the Hughes could give you such gritty action and daily lifestyle inside a film? Or maybe it makes a little bit of sense. It was damn cool either way. Finding a blacker black, The Hughes Bros. have given us a tale with fearsome elements involved, and gruesome consequences. I enjoyed it, because I found it a nice surprise to see the film not exactly trying so hard to make money, then to aspire to be something greater than a vehicle for A-list actors. So bravo you two, seriously. They had a vision, and if I say so myself, I think they accomplished keeping it the way they intended. Be that as it may, this is one damn awesome film. It's... just enough, before it tries too hard. In the best way possible. Ya know?
Solara and Eli found a bond by accident, and no, it doesn't consummate in sex. Thank God for avoiding that cliche'.
It's through faith.
Solara is walking through her life dead, serving water and liquor (and herself occasionally) at the local dive in town, and living with Carnegie and her mother (Jennifer Beals hitting new impressive notes in this one), his concubine. She hates her self, her situation, and worst all, knows: this is the best it's gonna get for her. Until Eli travels into her life, opening up her mind and soul to the wonders of faith, religion (sorta), love, and cherishing what's around you, the important things that still can be found. Solara expresses this to Eli eventually in a profound manner. She knows now she needs him, and she can't be without the warmth he provides her: peace of mind.
And peace of mind never costs too much, I always say.
Which is this film's heart and soul if you asked me. Peace of mind about a future that is not certain, but certainly attainable. With the right kind of principles applied everyone can start to feel good and hopeful about life a few years from.
3.5 to this one, with no regrets on that. Even the finale (though trying just a tad hard to nail it home) was terrific, a shade of beautiful and the reason I would have chosen the film if I was an actor. (And yes, a little WTF as many have said) Not in any way conventional, and that most certainly counts for something.