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With much of the film set upon the desolate remains of the highways left after a nuclear apocalypse, once can view large portions of THE BOOK OF ELI ($35) as though it were THE ROAD WARRIOR sans the vehicles. Sure, there is something all too familiar about this post-apocalyptic tale, but in the capable hands of the Hughes Brothers, along with the presence of Denzel Washington and Gary Oldman, THE BOOK OF ELI proves itself to be something more than what one might expect. While the graphic novel styled action sequences will appeal to many, there is just something about the story and what the actors bring to their decidedly underwritten roles that makes THE BOOK OF ELI work better than it should.

THE BOOK OF ELI is set thirty years after the war that has rendered the world little more than a wasteland, where the remnants of humanity scavenge to survive. The film quickly introduces us to Eli (Denzel Washington), a solitary survivor who is traveling by foot to the west coast of the United States. Eliís path is filled with human predators, who will brutally kill to possess the meager scraps of another. Fortunately, Eli possesses possess survivalist instincts; lethal fighting skills and resolve, which seems to make short work of any that would dare attack him. When he happens upon a small town, Eliís pauses from his westward journey to barter for water and a few other supplies. While in town, Eli runs afoul of the local goons, whom he quickly dispatches. Eliís actions attract the attention of a man named Carnegie (Gary Oldman), a corrupt despot who uses his goon squads to control the town.

Of course, Carnegie is no fool, and immediately recognizes Eli as a learned and skilled manÖ one who would be a tremendous asset to his organization. In fact, Eliís skills would be exceedingly useful, as Carnegieís ambitions go beyond just one little town. Carnegie is a man with a visionÖ he wants to build an empire out of the wasteland, but Carnegieís plans are dependent upon an illiterate band of scavengers, whom he is entrusting to unearth a copy of a certain long lost book. As fate would have it, Eli is in possession of the book that Carnegie is seeking. But of course, Eli has no intention of becoming part of Carnegieís organization, nor parting with his book. After a gun battle, Eli is able to get away from Carnegieís men, however he finds himself with an unwanted traveling companion- Solara (Mila Kunis), who is also seeking to escape Carnegie. As expected, Carnegie isnít about to let the copy of the book get away so easily, which leave Eli and Solara on the run from the enraged tyrant and his heavily armed contingent. The cast of THE BOOK OF ELI also features Jennifer Beals, Tom Waits, Malcolm McDowell, Michael Gambon, Frances de la Tour, Ray Stevenson, Evan Jones, Joe Pingue and Chris Browning.

Warner Home Video has made THE BOOK OF ELI available on Blu-ray Disc in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio presentation that has been encoded onto the disc with the VC-1 codec. Although the film strives for a bleak, desolate look, the 1080p presentation is amazingly good. THE BOOK OF ELI is end-to-end digital, and was shot with Red cameras, which capture a tremendous amount of clarity and fine detail. Even with the productionís contrasty, highly filtered look, the image really just impresses the viewer to no end. Stark exteriors have wonderful dimensionality, while interiors appear more dusty and dense. Colors are mostly drained of saturation, appearing as bloodless and near dead as the world that the charactersí inhabit. Blacks are spot on, while the whites are perfectly stable, despite their high intensity. Contrast has been pushed to increase the desolate look of a world perched upon and parched by a near nuclear winter. Coming off digital elements, there are no flaws in the image, nor any true film grain.

THE BOOK OF ELI is presented on Blu-ray Disc with a 5.1 channel DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack. This is one terrific soundtrack. THE BOOK OF ELI delivers exactly the of high intensity sound design one expects during the action sequences, but then does the unexpectedÖ making the quieter sequences even more captivating. There is a surprising amount of life in the atmospherics of a near dead world. Smaller sounds are exceedingly well deployed, plus there are moments when the track catches the listener completely off guard; deploying elements that are so convincing, one may think they are within the confines of their home theater. Getting back to the action sequences, the sound design proves explosive and makes the most of all the discrete channels. Thanks to the lossless encode, there is an amazing clarity to the filmís music, not to mention sound effects. The bass channel enters the full on ground shaking assault mode for explosions. Dialogue is very cleanly rendered and the actors' voices maintain a very natural timbre. French and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 channel tracks are also encoded onto the disc, as are English, French and Spanish subtitles.

The interactive menus allow one access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as the supplements. THE BOOK OF ELI features Warner Brothers immersive Maximum Movie Mode, which offers viewers an enhanced version of the film with picture-in-picture pop up windows that contain comments from Denzel Washington and the Hughes Brothers, storyboard comparison, production stills, as well as ancillary programs (requires a Profile 1.1 player). Programs from the Maximum Movie Mode are also available to view independently as a series of Focus Points: The Look Of Eli (four minutes), Underpass Fight (three minutes), Building Carnegieís Town (three minutes), The Motorcycle Brigade (three minutes), Eli Goes To Battle (three minutes), Eliís Mission (two minutes), Shootout At George And Marthaís (four minutes), Eliís Weapon Of Choice (two minutes), Solara Causes Mayhem (six minutes) and Apocalyptic San Francisco (three minutes). Featurettes and other programs include: A Lost Tale: Billy (five minutes), Starting Over (thirteen minutes), Eliís Journey (eighteen minutes) and The Book Of Eli Soundtrack (five minutes). Deleted Scenes and a Bonus Trailer close the standard supplements. A DVD and Digital Copy of the film are also provided, with both being housed on the second disc of this set.

While there is a certain sense of familiarity to THE BOOK OF ELI, thanks to the talent behind it, the movie exceeds expectations. The Blu-ray presentation is exceedingly good. Recommended.



The Book Of Eli (Blu-ray/DVD Combo + Digital Copy) (2010)


DVD & Blu-ray Disc reviews are Copyright © 2010 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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