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Film: The Book of Eli
"I walk by faith, not by sight."

"Both thorn and thistles it should bring forth, for us. For out of the ground we were taken for the dust we are, and to the dust we shall return."

A 2010 post-apocalyptic film starring Denzel Washington, Gary Oldman, and Mila Kunis directed by the Hughes Brothers. Think a live action adaptation of the Fist of the North Star Manga/Anime with a Race Lifted Kenshiro, or Fallout with Christianity instead of the American Dream.

In the not-too-distant future, some 30 years after the final war, a solitary man walks across the wasteland that was once America. A warrior not by choice but necessity, Eli seeks only peace but, if challenged, will cut his attackers down before they realize their fatal mistake. It's not his life he guards so fiercely but his hope for the future; a hope he has carried and protected for 30 years and is determined to realize. Driven by this commitment and guided by his belief in something greater than himself, Eli does what he must to survive—and continue. Eli must keep moving to fulfill his destiny and bring help to a ravaged humanity. Only one other man in this ruined world understands the power Eli holds, and is determined to make it his own: Carnegie.

This film provides examples of:

  • Above the Influence: Eli, for obvious reasons, refuses Solara's... solicitations. When she tells him that he needs to use her, lest her mother be beaten, Eli allows her to stay and report that she was... used.
  • Absurdly Sharp Blade: Eli takes a man's hand off early in the movie in one swipe.
  • Affably Evil: Carnegie responds to Eli butchering almost the entire bar by offering him a job. And giving him a room for the night, a deal that includes Solara. Also, he's seen reading Mussolini's biography when we first meet him. Guess what that symbolizes? Also, one of the books he ordered burnt is Ann Frank's diary.
  • After the End: The film takes place some thirty years after an obvious nuclear war. A number of people who were alive at the time of "The Flash" still suffer burns, scars, and blindness from the event.
  • All Men Are Rapists: It is not a good idea to wander alone in post-apocalyptic America if you're a woman.
  • As the Good Book Says: Natch, given what the book is; Eli quotes from it. Also subverted hilariously when Eli is trying to explain the concept of faith to Solara with the metaphor "flower of light in a field of darkness". She asks if he got that from the book, and he admits that it's a quote from Johnny Cash.
  • Badass: Three guesses as to whom. For proof look at the awesome page; all but two of the entries are Eli's.
  • Badass Boast: "Touch me again with that hand and you won't get it back." More like a simple fact than a boast: he makes good on his word seconds later.
  • Badass Longcoat: Carnegie and Eli.
  • Badass Old People: When Carnegie tracks Eli to an elderly couple's house, they've got a cache of weapons under the couch. When Carnegie tells them to come outside with their hands up, the old lady's response is to cock her gun and curse at them.
  • Badass Preacher: Played with. Although Eli is not a literal preacher, he is the closest thing to a religious figure in the post-apocalyptic world and he is so totally badass that only God can help you if you mess with him.
  • The Bible
  • Blank Book: The book in question is written in Braille but makes for an equally surprising revelation.
  • Blind Seer: Eli 'sees' what his mission is, what he needs to do. He literally goes "by faith and not by sight." To the point where you don't realize he's blind until the end. Though more astute viewers can pick up little bits of Foreshadowing of this fact, such as Eli bumping into things a couple of times, or using his senses of smell and hearing to track prey.
  • Blind Weaponmaster: Eli uses a machete, a bow, and a number of guns.
  • Brains and Brawn: Carnegie and Redridge; the former reads the books and the latter fires the guns.
  • Bullet Time: Used with an arrow in the beginning, but the rest of the movie only uses regular slowmo.
  • Cannibal Clan: These kinds of people are common to the inhabitants of the world of The Book of Eli. People are able to tell that they are cannibals due to a quivering in their hands (caused by kuru, a disease spread only through cannibalism).
  • Can't You Read the Sign?
    Eli: Sorry, I didn't see it.
  • Chainsaw Good: The chainsaw wielder gets a few good swings against Eli (hitting only air, but impressive for a bulky weapon), but still gets the thing knocked out of his hands and stabbed to death.
  • The Chessmaster: Carnegie is shown playing chess with his wife while manipulating his adopted daughter to do his bidding.
  • Clean Cut: Multiple times such as the the hand in the first fight scene.
  • Cool Shades: Practically everyone wears sunglasses or shaded goggles due to increased UV rapidly causing blindness, but some of the sets of glasses really stand out — particularly as Sinister Shades.
  • Covered with Scars: Remnants of the Flash showing all over Eli's body.
  • Cozy Catastrophe: Averted. Except for the remnants in Alcatraz. Justified since- 'Everyone knows there's nothing to the West' means no one's going to waste precious resources looking for something they don't believe to exist, and then try and find a boat or some way to get there.
  • Crapsack World: That's what "The Flash" did to humanity.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Eli, Solara, two old people, in a wood house, versus a huge-ass artillery piece. That'll go over well.
  • Decoy Damsel: The trap early on. Eli doesn't fall for it.
  • Deliberately Monochrome: The colors are bleached to give a bleak, desolate, post-apocalyptic scenery. Makes sense considering what's affected the environment — damaged ozone and resultant harsh sunlight, lack of rain, dust blowing everywhere, radiation, pollutants...
  • Desert Punk: Most of the action takes place in the desert, later revealed to be Nevada.
  • Determinator: Eli. He's on a mission from God, after all.
  • Died Standing Up: Redridge dies kneeling.
  • Disappeared Dad: Solara tells Eli that Carnegie isn't her father, leaving her real one unknown and unmentioned. There's a fan theory on who is, however [1]
  • The Dog Bites Back: The woman Carnegie has been abusing for years can read braille but she doesn't want to. Instead she takes the time to rub in his face how much his obsession has cost him.
  • The Drifter: Eli. At a certain point, Solara asks him if he is sure of where he's going. Made funnier with the last scene's Reveal.
  • Dueling Movies: In contest with The Road (2009). Both are post-apocalyptic movies about a man safeguarding something he holds dear. Both movies emphasize the aspects of reaching a destination, lying South or West.
  • Exact Words: Eli often speaks in ways that sound figurative, but he means them literally, i.e "I walk by faith, not by sight."
  • The Extremist Was Right: Say what you will about Carnegie, but he carved out order from the desolate, inhumane wastes.
  • Evil Plan: Carnegie searches for The Bible so he can use it to expand his "kingdom" with 'good news' rather than mooks with guns.
  • Fake American: A good portion of the cast, including Gary Oldman and Michael Gambon. Ray Stevenson, much as we love him, was not fooling anyone.
  • Foreshadowing: There's a few hints that Eli was blind before you actually know for sure. For example, when he stops Solara from taking the book, telling her that "You'd probably have no idea how to read it anyway." This could mean that either she's illiterate, or that Eli guessed that she wouldn't have known how to read Braille.
    • Another few : Eli smells the bandits from thirty feet away. This makes sense, since his sense of smell would likely have been heightened due to his lack of vision. He then goes on to kill the bandits in a very dark tunnel that presents little visibility but it makes everything sound much louder. Also, Eli asks the woman who was with the bandits he just killed where their water is. Turns out it's plainly visible in the cart next to her, but he can't see it. There's also the "No Trespassing" sign that Eli didn't see, the fact that Solara had to point out to Eli that the old couples' hands were trembling, and the fact that Eli mentions his senses of hearing and smell but never sight. Also, the fact he wears black sun glasses all the time is sort of a dead give away (but not as obvious thanks to the much harsher ultraviolet rays).
    • His line "I walk by faith, not by sight."
    • A clever scene was the shootout in front of the bar. If you pay attention, you'll notice he's listening to the gunshots first then using that information to one-shot the bad guys one by one..
    • another subtle event that most only realize in hindsight, the bar fight which makes the villain take notice of our hero is caused when the previously mentioned rapist takes offense at Eli shooing the bar's cat away when getting his drink; he couldn't hear the cat prowl across the bar table and his hand knocked into it when he reached for his drink
    • He also bumps into things gently a few times, such as the dresser in the shack near the start, and later his feet on the stairs leading up to the strange house and when he reaches the top step, he holds his gun in front of him. He knows there will be a door there, but doesn't know exactly where until he bumps into it with the barrel of the gun.
    • He seemingly ignores the gold chain on the dead body in exchange for a pair of boots. Obviously, he doesn't see it but he finds the boots once he feels around for them.
      • He doesn't react in any way to the skeleton in the abandoned car either, even though the skull is just inches from his face. Even in a post-apocalyptic world full of desiccated corpses, you'd expect a sighted man to at least glance at such a thing.
    • Earlier in the film the morning after the cat meal. He left his iPod on all night so its battery's next to empty. You see him pressing the play and stop button thinking it might work. You could look at it as an act of frustration, but the truth is he couldn't see the low battery signal flash.
    • The shopkeeper identifies Eli's Ipod and the latter replies with a simple 'is it?' This can easily be missed as Eli not knowing the differences between Ipods but his lack of sight would make it harder to identify.
    • An example of foreshadowing not having to do with Eli: Carnegie is reading up on Mussolini near the beginning. Obviously, they're both dictators in one way or another but it also points to Carnegie's fate which mirrors Mussolini's fall at the hands of his own people.
    • In the opening scene, was Eli clicking his tongue to get the cat's attention, or was he using echolocation to see where it was?
  • Freudian Excuse: Carnegie's views on faith and the book's power stems from his pre-war childhood with his redneck parents.
  • Gatling Good : An antique hand-cranked model, even. Mounted to a modern van.
  • God Is Good: Eli manages to survive 30 years in his present condition and is unstoppable and untouchable until his destiny is complete and his disciple carries on in his stead. Plus, every person who opposes Eli ends up dead within a matter of days.
  • Good Shepherd: Eli is a good man who teaches prayer and quotes scripture. The only thing he's lacking is formal ordination.
  • Handicapped Badass: Legally Blind Eli kicks the ass of anyone that attacks him
  • The Hero Dies: In the epilogue but Eli himself phrases it as God "letting me sleep".
  • Honey Trap: Solara is sent to Eli's room in order to get information on the secret book.
  • Humiliation Conga: Carnegie first finds out that Eli's Bible is locked, then once he gets the town handyman to pick the lock, he finds the Bible is in braille. After getting over this, he gets Solara's mom (who is blind) to read it, but she laughs him off and notes that he'll die from gangrene soon. Then he gets to crawl out and see his bar get torn to pieces, with his men doing nothing. The topper has to be his last man, surveying the destruction around him, and wisely pulling up a chair and doing nothing, while staring at his boss.
  • I'm a Humanitarian: People eating other people is apparently fairly common, but still looked down upon.
  • Immune to Bullets: Carnegie's Mooks start to believe this applies to Eli. Carnegie disagrees and intends to prove it...
  • Imperial Storm Trooper Marksmanship Academy: Justified because their target is God's protectorate. They're also Raiders whose only experience has been shooting up the occasional unarmed wastelander, and are not trained marksmen.
  • Improbable Aiming Skills: Eli has about thirty years worth of practice surviving the dangers of traveling alone in a post-apocalyptic world but considering that he's blind the trope counts. Not to mention that a guy with perfect vision would be relying on a lot of luck to get some of those long-distance shots with a 30+ year old semiautomatic handgun, single-handed. Justified in that he might have had some Divine Intervention.
  • Jerk Ass: Carnegie: condoning rape, murder, and the exploitation of other people's faith in order to get what he wants. Oh, and fascist rule over a town and abuse of a mother and daughter, the latter by proxy.
  • Karma Houdini: The girl who would lure travelers into ambushes. Remember the fact that all of her (onscreen) guys were chopped up, and yet she appeared again pulling the same scam with entirely different group of people...was the whole ruse her idea?
  • Karmic Death: See Laser-Guided Karma below.
  • Kevlard: During the fight with the bandits out in the desert, the fat guy with the chainsaw is able to stand up to several slashes across the stomach before Eli finally kills him.
  • Kick the Dog: Carnegie likes abusing Solara's mother.
    • Redridge shoots a random mook because Eli escaped his room and he happened to be the guard that night.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: The raider who shoots a random wastelander and rapes another is beaten to death, Carnegie dies from a festering shotgun wound while watching his "kingdom" fall apart, and Eli, failing to fight the rapist gang on the road, has to fight them at the bar later, which brings him to the attention of Carnegie. Justified when you remember who's supposed to be running the show.
  • Left for Dead: Eli is left to die in the desert, but his gut shot wound proved less severe than expected. Or did God intervene?
  • Locked Room Mystery: How did Eli escape from custody?
  • Made of Iron: Eli gets fucking gut-shot, then patches himself up with duct tape and survives long enough to recite the entire Bible aloud from memory.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Carnegie; his Evil Plan is all about manipulating the weak and the desperate with holy words.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: Is Eli supernaturally protected or just really really lucky? We don't know!
  • Meaningful Name: Eli was one of the Hebrew names for God.
    • It's also a shortened version of Elijah, a prophet of the Old Testament who brought Judaism back to Samaria and drove out believers in the pagan God Baal.
    • Eli is the name of one of the Judges in the Bible. He was blind by the time he died.
    • It also means "my lord is God".
    • All in all it's a rather apt name.
    • Solara follows Eli from east to west and, at the end, claims that she'll return home. What else rises in the east, sets in the west, and reappears in the east once again?
    • Carnegie was a noted philanthropist and was responsible for founding many libraries during his lifetime... and would like to keep the poor in their place (he honestly thought it'd do them good, whereas this Carnegie...)
  • Meaningless Villain Victory: Yay, I've got the book... oh it's in Braille and I'm dying of gangrene. Oops!
  • Miles to Go Before I Sleep: Eli seems happy to just curl up and die once he's fulfilled his mission.
  • Milky White Eyes: Averted with Claudia, who was born blind. Played straight with Eli, as part of a The Reveal.
  • Mook Chivalry: Averted; in the bar fight scene Eli is clearly taking on up to three people at once, if not in the exact same instant.
  • More Than Mind Control: Carnegie wants the Bible for this reason. As it is, he needs to use force to keep the people in line. He believes having a higher power to believe in (and, more importantly, work for), will allow him to control them much easier. He also doesn't have the manpower to expand, which wouldn't be a problem if he had the Bible.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: A tandem one for Eli and Solara, though they couldn't have known better. Eli recites a typical prayer of thanks while Solara is his guest, and Solara mimics it the next morning at breakfast with Carnegie, which clues him in to Eli's possession of a Bible.
  • One-Man Army: Eli takes on a bar full of hostiles and is the only one left standing.
  • Only One Name: Everyone. How many families still exist? The comic back-story gives Carnegie's name as Billy.
  • Pet the Dog: At first it seems like Redridge only wants Solara for one thing, but he does show some genuine concern for her well-being later in the movie. See below.
  • Platonic Prostitution: Solara is given to Eli to use as he wishes, and she tells him she'll be punished if he sends he away. So they eat together and chat about the Bible.
  • Product Placement: Motorola, GMC, Ray-Ban, KFC, Kmart, iPod, "Beats by Dr. Dre" earphones, Busch, Oakley (Eli's bag, not the shades). The town even has the remains of a JC Crew store if you look closely.
  • The Purge: All Bibles were burned after the war, and Eli mentions that people considered the possibility of religion being what started it in the first place.
  • Ragnarok-Proofing: Just about everything up until the Alcatraz enclave looks considerably worn out and battered after 30 years. Even the ones having some (makeshift) maintenance work about as well as you'd expect.
  • Real Is Brown: Deliberately used and justified.
  • Real Men Love Jesus: Eli reads The Bible every single day. Before one of the most awesome melee battles in film history, he hands out that "dust to dust" quote, which makes the fight itself at least twice as badass. Also notable is that he can recite the entire King James Bible from memory. Which of course turned out to be the whole point of the movie — that and that it's not the destination.
    • Denzel Washington himself is a devout Christian, and was a driving force behind this movie being made.
  • Redemption Equals Death: A bizarre case: Carnegie's Dragon obviously has feelings for Solara, seen when Carnegie threatens to kill her to get the Bible. When she manages to overturn the car she's in on the ride home, he's impaled by Eli's machete (he had taken it with him) and very easily could have used it to kill her. Instead, he spares her and dies outside.
  • Red Right Hand: Cannibals develop several distinctive tics, including shaking hands. A common way to prove oneself trustworthy is to show you don't have them.
  • The Revolution Will Not Be Civilized: When Carnegie is overthrown, the people breaking up the room are shown looting the place and forcing themselves upon the women.
  • Robbing the Dead: One of the first things we see Eli do when scavenging is discover a man who's hanged himself, and promptly divest the guy of his nice leather boots.
  • Scavenger World: Everything's done via bartering — even a few alcohol wipes and a zippo are precious.
  • Scenery Gorn: Standard fare for After the End, though the major landmarks are fairly well off.
  • Shaggy Dog Story: For Carnegie; he spends the entire movie hunting Eli to steal the bible. Carnegie feels that with the bible, he can use it to maintain his iron-grip on the town. At the climax of the film, he finally does get the book, but at the sacrifice of his dragon, only to learn the book is in braille. Then he learns that after putting so much effort into his manhunt, the towns people have finally turned against him and started looting his "kingdom."
  • Shout-Out:
    • When Carnegie puts Eli up for the night, the poster on the wall is for A Boy and His Dog, another post-apocalyptic movie set in a desert. A thug aiming down from a rooftop can also be seen using a modified Springfield rifle that was used by the main character in that movie.
    • The two cannibals are named George and Martha.
    • Early on, when Solara is sent to bring Eli water he just bartered for, someone is whistling main theme from Once Upon a Time in America.
  • Shown Their Work: The cannibals' hands shake uncontrollably.
  • Small Name, Big Ego: Carnegie has lofty ambitions but nowhere near enough manpower or resources to even expand beyond the town he lords over.
  • Something Else Also Rises: Just as someone is about to rape Solara, something else goes right through his pants. No, not like that. More like this.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: "Ring my Bell" by Anita Ward, for any number of reasons.
  • Stolen MacGuffin Reveal:
    • Early on, Eli pretends to give up the book, only for it to turn out to be a Book Safe containing a live grenade.
    • At the end, we see Eli telling the librarian that he has the book, intercut with a scene of Carnegie attempting to break into the one he's been given. Subverted when we find out that Carnegie has the real book, but can't read it, whereas Eli knows the whole thing by heart.
  • Super Senses: Eli can shoot an arrow into a cat from a distance despite being blind. Presumably it has to do with his other senses. Eli himself believes it is God's guidance.
  • Survival Mantra: "Stay on the path."
  • Take Over the World: Carnegie wants to expand his empire using the doctrine of Christianity to coerce people into following him.
    Carnegie: It's happened before.
  • Take That: Among the pile of books and magazines brought before Carnegie (and subsequently burned) is a copy of The Da Vinci Code.
  • These Hands Have Killed: Eli is really good at killing people, but feels guilty about it.
  • Throwaway Guns: Averted when Eli runs out of handgun ammunition and sets his gun down on a car — but retrieves it before he leaves. Also averted in the fact that apparently it's very common for people to carry guns despite ammunition being rare.
    • Makes sense - if you can find bullets at some point later. Even if there is slim to none chance they will match your gun it's much better than having bullets and no gun to fire them.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Before the apocalypse, Eli was a simple clerk at a local Kmart.
    • Solara is The Load throughout most of the movie, but then engineers a rather impressive escape when Carnegie's mooks capture her. becomes Eli Jr. by taking his equipment after his death and heading east.
  • Trailers Always Lie: The trailers painted it as more of a generic action movie, instead of the more cerebral film that it is.
  • Truth in Television: The symptoms that the cannibals showed. Kuru, a prion disease caused by cannibalism, is characterized by truncal ataxia, headaches, joint pains, and, most importantly, shaking of the limbs. Until the 1950's when cannibalism was outlawed in New Guinea, members of the South Fore often contracted it by eating their dead. (It had an incidence that was 8 times higher in women than in men because the men would get the better cuts and women were left with the brains and spinal cords).
    • For a more memorable analogue, a similar disease is also known as Bovine spongiform encephalopathy or more commonly "Mad Cow Disease", which can be caused by feeding cows beef.
  • Twenty Minutes into the Future: Or thirty years.
  • Twist Ending: Eli's been blind all along and he he memorized the Bible. Because it's in Braille, Carnegie's wife refuses to read it to him.
  • The Reveal: Eli was blind the entire time. Plus, the book's in Braille.
  • Walking Armory: Let's count 'em: kukri, axe, shotgun, pistol, and bow, plus ammo, sharpening tools. and a decoy book with a bomb inside.
  • Walking the Earth: Eli has been doing it for thirty years. Solara starts doing this at the end of the film.
  • Wasteland Elder: Carnegie is an evil version of this.
  • We Have Reserves: Averted; Carnegie realizes too late that he lost too many man trying to get the book, and his remaining men aren't enough to keep the town oppressed.
  • Willing Suspension of Disbelief:
    • The titular book of Eli, a Braille Bible, purportedly containing the entire KJV text, would take up much more physical space than one volume. More like 18, and those are for ENORMOUS-sized books (roughly three full sets of ''Encyclopaedia Britannicas). Regular-sized volumes would number around 36 but perhaps it's another miracle.
    • Believing that all the Bibles would have been burned. The thin veneer of an explanation about 'maybe that's what started the war in the first place'? There's a lot of them in the world, considering it's been the number 1 bestselling book since the invention of the printing press. It'd easier to believe that they just think it's the last one, or that it's simply the last one in that immediate area. The end of the movie reveals that Eli's was definitely not the last Bible, since, when Malcolm McDowell places a newly printed copy of the King James Bible on the shelf, there is a very visible Artscroll Tanakh, i.e., the complete text of the Hebrew Bible in the original Hebrew with an English translation, sitting only two books to the left of it. Granted, the Tanakh would not contain the New Testament, so it is possible that Eli's copy is the last-existing copy of the Christian Gospels, but it was clearly not the last Bible.
    • That a monk could transcribe an entire Bible in a short amount of time. Before the printing press was invented it would take a few years to transcribe a single Bible. Even if one removes the stuff to make the book fancy (writting it with elaborate letters, drawning miniatures and covering every single page with hand-made adorments) and writting it in Latin (your second language) it would still take weeks to transcribe the whole thing.
  • Worthy Opponent: Redridge seems to consider Eli one, since he lets him go after witnessing Eli slaughter a bunch of Mooks with his Improbable Aiming Skills. He also appears rather shocked when Carnegie shoots and fatally wounds Eli.
  • X Meets Y: Fist of the North Star with a Black Kenshiro or Fallout with Christianity.
  • You Have Failed Me: One of the guards is executed for letting Eli escape from custody.
  • Your Days Are Numbered: Carnegie spends the better part of the movie slowly wasting away from a gunshot wound taken from an earlier battle, though he lives just long enough to see his little "kingdom" fall apart. Eventually, this tropes extends to Eli, but not before "delivering" the Bible to Alcatraz.


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alternative title(s): The Book Of Eli
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