EXODUS: GODS AND KINGS
Defiant leader Moses (Christian Bale) rises up against the Egyptian Pharaoh Ramses (Joel Edgerton), setting 600,000 slaves on a monumental journey of escape from Egypt and its terrifying cycle of deadly plagues.
Review by Louise Keller:
A rousing spectacle with scale in line with that of Gladiator, Ridley Scott's Exodus: Gods and Kings is big, bold and impressive. With its massive backdrop of ancient Egypt, biblical references and compelling tale of rivalry, ambition and betrayal, the film is an epic, whose themes are as complex as its extravagant sets and plot. A superb screenplay integrates the dramatic elements, which are depicted with theatrical grandeur, while retaining the sense of the hero's journey and underlying quest for freedom. The religious aspects are delivered with minimal earnestness, as if recounted as part of a fable.
The physical contrast between Christian Bale as the heroic, selfless Moses and Joel Edgerton as the corrupt, materialistic Ramses reinforces the men's moral differences. Bale is a magnificent protagonist, ably depicting both strength and vulnerability, while Edgerton, wearing striking Cleopatra eyes and showy costumes, portrays innate weakness as he relies on his Pharaoh status.
There are resonances in the adversarial relationships between Moses and Ramses with that of Ben-Hur and Messala; Gladiator's Maximus and Commodus. In the mind of Ramses, there is little that differentiates his kingly status with that of a god. Watch out for Jon Turturro as Ramses' father, the compassionate Pharaoh who believes in prophecies.
The establishment of Moses' true Hebrew origins is nicely exposed and Ben Mendelsohn delivers an entertaining performance as the power-obsessed Hegep. Meticulous care has been taken with the casting of many roles and I like the fact that talents from different countries are used. These include Hiam Abbass as the Pharaoh's favourite wife and bewitching Mar’a Valverde as Moses' wife Zipporah, who Moses meets while in exile.
The film steps up a notch with the advent of the plagues, when thrashing crocodiles turn the Nile into a blood bath. Schools of dead fish, armies of frogs, swarming insects, maggot and health issues follow. My skin crawled in the scene when Ramses' wife (Golshifteh Farahani) wakes to find her bed (and hair) covered with slimy, leaping frogs. It rivals the snake scene in Witches of Eastwick. The stakes grow higher and higher as the devastating symbolic slaughtering of the lambs take place, followed by its consequences.
The depiction of God as a precocious child straight out of an English public school will prompt much discussion and is the film's weakest point. But credit goes to Bale for making the scenes in which he debates issues with the po-faced child convincing. The film soars in the final half hour as Moses leads the exodus of 400,000 Hebrews from Egypt, closely pursued by Ramses and his men, whose precarious charge in chariots along the cliff-edge is outright terrifying. The massive wall of water and the parting of the sea is one of many visual highlights and Scott pulls everything out of his arsenal to deliver a thrilling and satisfying epic that ticks all the boxes with its star power and grand filmmaking.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
It's hard to tell whether Ridley Scott's Exodus is a misfire satire or a creative misfire, but I suspect it's the latter given that it takes itself so seriously. Well, you may say of course it does, Moses and the bible are serious stuff, especially with God talking to Moses, Moses discovering his Hebrewness, all them horrible plagues, 400,000 slaves being freed .... The trouble is that the bible story of some 3,300 years ago seems rather silly in today's context. Superstitions like reading goats entrails and the wrath of a child god can only be taken seriously as a fable, not to be taken literally.
Perhaps trying to overcome this massive cultural gap, Scott goes with the writers' decision to make the dialogue resonate with contemporary idioms and sensibilities. So when he gets exasperated by god's relentless wrath, sending plagues in quick succession upon the Egyptians, Moses grumbles: "Are you done?"
Other creative misfires include casting decisions, with the notable exception of Ben Mendelsohn as the effeminate Hegep, in a highly entertaining performance. Somehow this works for the film, but the star personas of the leads gets in the way of the film's authenticity; all are fine actors, but the period setting and the biblical nonsense make them seem like players in an elaborate panto.
Then there are the giant set pieces of thousands of slaves, thousands of Egyptian soldiers, giant monuments, the vicious plagues (crocodiles, sharks, locusts, frogs, skin disease) and the parting of the Red Sea, all done with great flair, but left devoid of meaning. (There is also a fair bit of location cheating which shows up as inconsistency of place.)
Perhaps the most puzzling creative misfire is the personification of god as a precocious young boy, a distracting device that reinforces a sense of the ridiculous that blankets the whole film.
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EXODUS: GODS AND KINGS (M)
CAST: Christian Bale, Joel Edgerton, Ben Kingsley, Aaron Paul, Sigourney Weaver, Indira Varma, John Tarturro, Ben Mendelsohn, Golshifteh Farahani, Dar Salim, Kevork Malikyan, Hiam Abbass
PRODUCER: Peter Chernin, Mark Huffam, Ridley Scott, Jenno Topping
DIRECTOR: Ridley Scott
SCRIPT: Adam Cooper, Bill Collage, Jeffrey Caine, Steven Zaillian
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Dariusz Wolski
EDITOR: Billy Rich
MUSIC: Alberto Iglesias
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Arthur Max
RUNNING TIME: 150 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: 20th Century Fox
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: December 11, 2014