Director Ridley Scott returns to his sword and sandal epics to bring us the story of Moses and how he freed the slaves of Ancient Egypt. The film kicks off by skipping the traditional baby in a basket scene but by introducing Moses (Bale) and his brother Ramses (Edgerton) as men, brothers in arms, two generals in their Pharaoh's army. Moses respects his adoptive father and brother very much, not bringing into question the acts of slavery they carry out and also not commenting much on religion. It is not until Moses is told that he is in-fact a Hebrew that he gradually and reluctantly accepts his heritage. Banished from Egypt by Ramses, Moses finds a new home and builds a family. All seems to be going well, until a fateful encounter with God, here portrayed as a petulant child, sets him on a mission to free the Hebrew slaves of Egypt.
In Scott's film, Moses is presented as many different things, a warrior, a lover, a father and sometimes, a mentally unstable individual and its a testament to Christian Bale's acting credit that he pulls it all of seamlessly. Joel Edgerton was a definite standout here as Ramses, the films antagonist, at first a brother to Moses and then an enemy, Edgerton plays Ramses petulantly and with an ounce of cockiness that worked perfectly for this character. As the film proceeds, the character of Ramses becomes quite confusing. Edgerton is on point throughout yet Scott's direction for the villain wasn't quite clear, are we supposed to loath Ramses or empathize with him? This character's arch sticks to the source material but doesn't quite fit within the setting of the film. The supporting cast are a nice boast but never add anything to the film. Aaron Paul, Ben Kingsley, John Turturro and Sigourney Weaver all show up in the film yet are never given much to do.
Ridley Scott is often praised for being an experienced world builder for his films like Blade Runner and Prometheus, but Scott's Ancient Egypt at times feels small, often reusing the same locations over and over again when more exploration could be done. The visuals and practical sets are nicely done and Scott certainly knows how to film the action scenes well, especially in the 10 plagues section of the film which are presented here as nature attacking civilization in hordes of monstrous onslaughts including a bloody Crocodile massacre on the river Nile. The film's main set piece, the parting of the Red Sea, feels underwhelming because of its placement after the 10 plagues.
At times throughout the film, Moses converses with God, and he is neither a wise old man or a voice in the sky. Here he is portrayed as a child, which is an interesting concept, but doesn't quite work, the dialogue in these scenes felt quite bland because of the child actor in the role of God. Joshua (Aaron Paul) watches Moses from a distance as he argues with God but Joshua only sees Moses as God is invisible to anyone else. There is perhaps one line of dialogue in the film that addresses the fact that Moses is seen arguing with himself and I thought Ridley Scott could have delved into that deeper, perhaps with Moses' followers seeing him as a crazed mad man who talks to himself.
Before this films release there was a lot of controversy surrounding the cast, a prominently white cast playing Egyptian and Hebrew characters. I can usually ignore casting choices like this during films but in Exodus: Gods and Kings, the whitewashing was painfully obvious. Some of the actors blended in at times but John Turturro and Sigourney Weaver stuck out like a sore thumb.
Exodus: Gods and Kings is a dull film, its humorless and nothing exciting happens often enough. The film is around 2 and a half hours long and it honestly felt like 3 and a half, Scott's pacing was really off here and its badly edited together. The two lead performances were good and at times superb but even they couldn't help this movie. Scott's last few films have really lacked passion, even though I enjoyed Prometheus and Robin Hood they too lacked passion. Exodus is not as bad as Scott's last film, "The Counsellor", but its a swing and a miss from this once great director.
The story of Moses is one that almost everybody knows, young and old, and rightfully so, the story is a fantastic one, but this film doesn't add anything to it. This is the same old story with minor tweaks that never dares to be ambiguous or challenging, it simply plays by the rules. Its a tedious and straight forward film that spends far too much time on things that the audience probably already knows.
Earlier this year Darren Aronofsky tried his hand at a Biblical tale with Noah, which did stray from the source material and evolve the story and it dared to be creative but Exodus is the exact opposite, this is the story you know, done the exact way you know it.
I can't recommend Exodus as it doesn't dare to be different, this is a story that should have different interpretations yet Ridley Scott has wasted his talents here with an all star cast that don't really do anything.
What do you guys think of EXODUS: GODS AND KINGS? Make sure to let me know in the comments!
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