The Book of Eli

The film and Christian cultures are at a crossroads. Hollywood is struggling (like politics) these days by venturing so far left of the cross, and Christian films struggle by not moving from the far right. Denzel Washington, a devout Christian and very successful actor, produced the first movie that actually encompassed both sides of the cross (and stuck to the central point too). Many, including myself, probably weren’t aware that he is the son of Denzel Washington Sr., a preacher for over 60 years. So how was he able to co-produce a film like this in today’s culture? That’s the question that many in the Christian film industry have to be asking.

Most of those films don’t offer the expertise of Hollywood (with this movie being delivered by Alcon Entertainment / directed by The Hughes Brothers). More details on the film here. For some reason conservative Christians might think of that as “being of this world” (John 15:19)? This film contained a unique mix of intense violence, gore and profanity, while Eli (played by Denzel) kept a clean mouth and shared many direct Biblical truths throughout it. As a co-producer of the film, I would love to hear what Denzel’s thoughts are on creating a story that made the truths of God extremely clear to the eyes of a majority of our country that don’t call Him their Father. Something Christian films fall very short of.

And for Christians. What would conservative Christian institutions have to say to me if they knew I was a fan of this “R rated movie”? I know the high school I attended sure would have given me the boot. Is our faith not strong enough to be in community with violence or vulgarity? Does just being among that kind of a lifestyle mean that you will fall into it? I guess I would much rather our faith (like Denzel’s) actually be seen and heard by those who might have never given it much thought than to rest on the ears of those who have heard it thousands of times and whose lives aren’t changed by it.

To end the review, I’d strongly recommend you go see the movie. You won’t be the same. I’m really glad and shocked that I didn’t share much of the storyline – it’s incredible! Here is a link to the official movie website.

  1. Glad you liked it. You make some excellent points. In my writing I try and pant every character as realistically as possible. My Christians have struggles, my non-Christians can be good people or bad people, the whole mass of humanity is messy and complicated. What fun/creativity is there to be had in striving to white wash everything/

  2. thanks for the review. I’ve seen the previews and because of the way it was advertised I didn’t realize it was in fact a Christian film and the book he carried was the Bible. I’m interested to see how the film plays out and what kind of impact it has.

  3. That’s a good point, Matt. It’s really interesting that the film wasn’t advertised as “Christian”. I’m guessing that was part of the plan, and is probably more effective. Denzel no doubt knows what he’s doing, LOL.

  4. I enjoyed this film. I knew it had Christian themes going in so I was looking for them.

    I’m not bothered by profanity or violence. I actually saw a quote today from Nancy Pearcey that I tend to live by.

    “There is no need to avoid the secular world and hide out behind the walls of an evangelical subculture; instead, Christians can appreciate works of art and culture… because a Biblical worldview gives the conceptual tools needed to analyze and critique them.” -from Total Truth by Nancy Pearcey

    Not that I endorse or even consume any and everything that comes across the wire, but you get the point.

    Great movie.

  5. Wow, Russ. Thanks for sharing that quote. Will definitely look into it more closely. And yes, I get the point. LOL.

  6. I think our example was Jesus. He “partied” with the sinners. He was in this world, but not of it. I think your review raises great questions for both the conservative Christian and the Liberal non-Christian. I want to see the movie and look forward to it even more after your review. Thanks.

  7. I also went to a small private school, where rated R movies were looked down upon. I tend to agree with Russ about being able to live as a Christian without hiding “behind the walls of an evangelical subculture…” I saw the movie and thought it was fantastic. It may be a little too gory for some, but the plot was great and the acting was great as well. I had no idea Denzel was a Christian, nor that his dad was a pastor.

  8. I second this motion! Go see the movie! I had no idea what to expect of this film.

    I probably should develop a habit of reviewing films before paying $10 to see it. It certainly is the practice that some of my conservative Christian friends suggest before seeing a “secular”, albeit Rated R film.

    I just like Denzel. I’ve followed his career and I knew he was a professed Christian before seeing the movie, but his faith did not have any impact on whether I saw the movie or not.

    The action was great and the message was clear. After the movie I’ve been praying for the same dedication Eli had to devouring “The Book” for a more than half of his life.

  9. Alan Smith

    Thanks for the review Gabe. My wife and I saw the trailer when we went to Avatar recently and were wondering about the validity of the Christian themes of the movie.

    Now it will be on our ‘must see’ list!

    Your comments about getting ‘the boot’ from high school rings true. We have made a conscious decision to not send our 4 children to a ‘Christian’ school, as we believe they need to learn how to behave around people of all beliefs, so that they can be a light among their peers.

  10. Matt – the word walls sure says quite a bit. It’s definitely easy to hide in a “Christian room” and never leave.

    Rich – the message sure was clear. So awesome to realize that the cross can withstand any attack.

    Alan – once you see the film there will be no second guessing the validity of God’s Word being heard. I can’t remember a movie where the Word was as strong.

  11. I didn’t realize it was a Christian movie, either. Adding it to my Netflix queue.

    On the profanity issue, this morning when I was driving my daughter to school, I was listening to a live version of Styx’s “Grand Illusion,” and it closed with “…who the hell we are.” A voice from the back, disapproving but not shocked, said, “That was an inappropriate use of that word.” I affirmed her observation & let her off at her public school, where one of her best friends is *completely* unchurched but has attended our church thanks to my daughter’s invitation.

    Too often, we like to go hide in our little monasteries, but that’s not how we reach the world with the Gospel.

    Kudos to both Denzels, including his father for teaching his son the way to go so that, when he’s old, he hasn’t departed from it.

  12. My favorite Denzel movie. EASILY!!!

    And just to let you know: A pastor at a very prominent church in the DFW Metroplex said he wishes he could show this movie one Sunday morning, then have an altar call. 😉

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