How Christian Is Denzel Washington's 'Book of Eli'?

Some film critics tease out Christian themes, but the director denies there's a subtext

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[Warning: Spoiler alert!]

Is the latest big-budget, blood and guts Hollywood action flick a Christian redemption film? That's what movie critics are trying to wrap their heads around with this weekend's release of The Book of Eli directed by Allen and Albert Hughes. The movie stars Denzel Washington playing a lone warrior who fends off ruthless gangs of thieves on resource-scarce, post-apocalyptic Earth. Throughout the film, Washington carries a book and recites passages from it until viewers eventually realize it's the Bible. While some say the strong Christian themes are undeniable, the film's co-director Allen Hughes downplays any religious undertones. Still others wonder if the R-rated flick will appeal to evangelicals:

  • Unequivocally Christian, writes The New York Post's Kyle Smith: The Book of Eli is not only a well-done action picture but an overtly, unabashedly Christian one... Denzel Washington plays a soldier of God. He’s on a divinely-inspired quest — yes, a literal mission from God — to take The Book to the West as a swarm of wrongdoers... try to stop him."

  • I Agree, It's About Time, Hollywood, rejoices John Boot at Pajamas Media: "Cross I Am Legend with The Ten Commandments and you’ve got The Book of Eli, a genuinely religious parable that inherently rebukes pointless end-of-the-world movies like The Road. This time there’s a purpose to the post-apocalypse: Eli (Denzel Washington), one of humanity’s survivors, is heeding the word of the Lord to protect the world’s only remaining Bible and bring its teachings to the West... The Book of Eli is a godsend."
  • Only a Christian Flick to Dogmatic Believers, says the film's co-director Allen Hughes: "Whatever you bring to it, that's what you're going to come out of it with. If you're that dogmatic about what your thoughts are about things and you want to have preconceived notions, then one will come out and say 'this is a Christian movie,' and they'll either be happy about it or be pissed about it. But if you're open minded and you sit back and watch it, maybe watch it again because there are so many subtle things that are happening that are worthy of a repeat viewing. I don't think you'll walk out with that feeling at all."
  • Plausibly Christian, But Can Evangelicals Stomach It? wonders Patrick Goldstein at The L.A. Times: "I've read enough of the Bible to know that it's a book with at least as much blood and savagery as any James Ellroy crime novel... but I'm not so sure that Middle American evangelicals will flock to see a film with so much bloody mayhem and such a grim view of the future."
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