Sci-Fi Double Feature Review: In Time & The Book of Eli

The Lady and I spent Monday night recovering from our Easter-Theatre-Friends weekend with a double feature night at home. First up, Justin Timberlake bringing sexy back to sci-fi with the chick from Big Love (I’m an HBO junkie)

In Time - 2011

Time is money. Literally. No one ages after 25, but unless you can buy more, you are only given a year once you hit 25. Most people in Timberlake’s side of town live day to day, which his mother (Olivia Wilde, the hottest 50 year-old in cinematic history) has managed for 2 and a half decades now.

Justin crosses paths with a man who has more than enough time on his hands, but no desire to live any more. He “inherits” a century and is immediately set on a collision course with the authorities.

Full of common sci-fi themes (immortality, classicism, the equality of mankind) and flaws (bullets are only as accurate as is convenient to the plot, time is stretched and condensed in ridiculous and inconsistent ways), In Time takes the currently hot idea of the 1% and gives it very real life and death stakes. Seyfried and Timberlake are both acceptable, but the real star are the editing and cinematography. Tautly paced, and beautifully framed the story drives to a quick and satisfying conclusion. Pleasantly surprised would be putting it lightly. This was only mildly only my radar (which is why I’m so late to the party) and was better than I would have dared hope. Solid 3 stars.

The Book of Eli  - 2010

Again, we’ve got a sci-fi film that failed to set the box office on fire, and while I’ve heard from many people that it was an enjoyable watch, no one was pushing it hard enough to force it up the queue until now.

What is The Book of Eli? I’d sum it up as a Christian Spaghetti Western Kung-Fu movie as directed by the guys behind Menace II Society and Dead Presidents and starring Denzel Washington and the chick from That 70’s Show. Yup. It’s complex.

The movie hangs on Denzel (Eli) and there are no shoulders in Hollywood more capable of bearing the weight. He’s at turns charming, frightening, inspirational, sexy and frail. Eli is almost as complex as the movie about his Book.

And of course, what about the Book? It’s the Bible (I don’t think that’s too big a spoiler, as it’s fairly obvious from any of the trailers) which isn’t too surprising (the title is close enough to make the layman wonder if there really is a Book of Eli and go thumbing through his own King James’). What is surprising is that the film so plainly and directly bestows power on the Book. It’s rare (no matter whether you buy into the ‘Fair & Balanced’ crowd’s view of Hollywood or not) to see faith in the words of that Book given so much weight, and as a guy who likes his copy, I enjoyed it.

Denzel is quite good (when is he not?), Mila is not terrible, Gary Oldman, Michael Gambon and Frances de la Tour (who knew the Hughes Bros. loved Harry Potter so much?) all deliver wonderful supporting performances and the action is very pleasantly staged. It’s brutal without ever seeming gory. Eli’s journey may not be immensely original (elements of I Am Legend, Mad Max, The Road, The Outlaw Josey Wales and even Denzel’s own Man on Fire) but it (like In Time earlier in the evening) is pretty beautiful throughout. Give me a pretty view of an actor as skilled as Washington and you don’t have to provide me much else. The message is a bit heavy-handed at times and a few of turns a bit too predictable, but again the late viewing and lowered expectations are rewarded with a strong 3 stars.