Movie Review: EXODUS: Gods and Kings
Star Cast: Starring Christian Bale, Joel Edgerton, Aaron Paul, Sigourney Weaver, Ben Kingsley, Isaac Andrews
Director: Ridley Scott
“FROM the economic standpoint alone”, that wouldn’t be feasible. This is Ramses II (Joel Edgerton) telling Moses (Christian Bale) why he can’t set the Hebrew slaves free. If that sounds unlikely coming out of a Pharaoh’s mouth circa 1300 BCE, you are not alone. Ridley Scott’s Exodus is as epic in scale as the director likes them, with horses, swords and men in togas. He gets to stage several battles, rain down impressive plagues and even raise a wall of water — though unfortunately in the wake of Interstellar’s own spectacular version of it. However, none of this covers the fact that Exodus has nothing to say.
Unlike the equally ambitious Noah of earlier this year, which interpreted that story as an eternal conflict to keep one’s faith, Exodus has few shades of grey. Ironically, its only mercurial creature may be its God, portrayed as a petulant and spookily smiling child by Andrews, who isn’t averse to cruelty in the cause of larger good.
In the beginning, the film is more promising, when Pharaoh Seti is having doubts over his son Ramses as successor, and makes his affections towards adopted son Moses known. Scott has drawn much criticism for casting only White actors in the main roles, and no choice is stranger than that of quintessential Italian John Turturro for Seti. Considering Seti doesn’t have much of a role, wonder what Scott was trying to achieve with that, unless it’s to give Turturro a kick with the heavy kohl eyes.
Ramses is very fond of Moses, but can’t hide his resentment or jealousy towards him.
Moses discovers his real origins by chance during a trip to the city of Pithom. He doesn’t want to believe that he is actually a slave boy himself, and the film doesn’t bother establishing any real connection between him and the Hebrews. Unlike in Cecil B DeMille’s The Ten Commandments, if Moses’s heart bleeds for the slaves, he doesn’t show it.
But after Ramses has discovered Moses’s true identity, he doesn’t waste time sending him on exile. From then on, the film runs along pretty linear lines. Some scenes stand out, such as when Moses finds God for the first time atop a mountain, when hit by stones, buried under a mudslide up to his face, and alongside the burning bush. The plagues are impressive, particularly the Nile turning red, and Ramses’s growing frustration interesting. However, surprisingly for a film woven more around actual clashes than that of ideas, Scott doesn’t manage to render Exodus any truly spectacular ones.
When two characters do sit down to talk about God, they move away from the subject fairly quickly before stepping onto any real minefields. Breaking Bad’s Paul skulks promisingly around corners when Moses is conversing with the One, but his embarrassingly acted Joshua turns out to be little more than a lapdog with scraggly hair.
And, the Red Sea recedes rather than parts. When a film is trying so little to address matters of faith, forget question them, that may be a strange place to show its scepticism.
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