Thirty years after an apocalyptic event, Eli (Denzel Washington) travels on foot toward the west coast of the United States. Along the way he demonstrates atypical but effective survival and fighting skills, hunting strange wildlife and swiftly defeating a group of highway bandits who try to ambush him. Searching for a source of water he arrives in a ramshackle town which was built by and is overseen by Carnegie (Gary Oldman). Carnegie dreams of building more towns and hinges these hopes on finding a certain book. His henchmen scour the desolate landscape daily in search of it.