Sir Ridley Scott unreservedly gets the visuals right with Exodus: Gods and Kings, at times you sit in awe of the spectacle that has been recreated by Scott and his legion of artists. He executes the affordances of technology to enhance the narrative. Joseph L. Mankiewicz may have built the palaces when making Cleopatra in 1963, Scott and his team use CGI to recreate them. His latest is a salute to the masters of classical Hollywood filmmaking from Cecil B De Mille to John Ford. However amidst the grandeur, the central characters pivotal to the 3D spectacle, lack the necessary layers of complexity to make this one of his best films.
The film begins spectacularly as brothers, Moses (Christian Bale) and Ramses (Joel Edgerton) walk down the steps of a magnificent palace, mount their chariots and head off to war. In loving celebration of Ford this first battle recalls a raid on a settlement from a Ford calvary Western. Late in the film he subtlely salutes the unforgettable last shot of Ford’s classic The Searchers.
The story proceeds, Moses saves Ramses from death setting up the films major narrative plot element. A strong,sensitive leader contrasted to the weak, corrupt King who builds monuments to himself whilst his people starve. Moses is banished to the desert and certain death after it is revealed he is a hebrew, only he survives and meets a beautiful villager, and for nine years lives in blissful happiness and begets a son. Then God speaks to him, and tells him to lead his people, out of slavery and oppression into the promised land. Firstly through a series of plagues, including CGI rendered onslaughts of crocodiles, flies, frogs, and locusts. Then to the land beyond the Red Sea, anyone with a limited understanding of the scriptures will know where this is heading.
The film runs 150 minutes long and you feel it. Terrific Aussie actors Ben Mendelsohn and Joel Edgerton feature. However, for all its technical brilliance, the narrative drags at times and though Scott resurrected the sword and sandal epic with Gladiator, Exodus lacks the commanding presence of an actor like Russell Crowe.