Exodus: Gods and Kings
Dir: Ridley Scott
Starring: Christian Bale, Joel Edgerton, Ben Kingsley, Aaron Paul, John Turturro, and Sigourney Weaver
By Monte Yazzie – TheCodaFilms.com
Two well known biblical stories have been adapted this year, starting with Darren Aronofsky’s “Noah” and ending the year with Ridley Scott’s epic and overlong “Exodus: Gods and Kings”. Ridley Scott, who’s film catalog alone proves more than capable of handling the sizeable task of this subject undertaking, handles the action with measured paces that move effortlessly throughout. Taking point from films like “The Ten Commandments” and “Spartacus”, “Exodus”: Gods and Kings” has all the shine and effect of a summer blockbuster but lacks the historical coherency or emotional depth needed to transcend it above more than simple spectacle.
Moses (Christian Bale) has been raised his entire life in the royal Egyptian court, embraced into the reigning family as brother to Ramses (Joel Edgerton). However, Moses is unlike the others in the kingdom and soon finds out the secret of his Jewish heritage that has been kept from him. Moses and his protecting family have been exiled from the kingdom, a blessing of sorts offered by Ramses who was instructed by his council to kill Moses. Moses, wandering the desert, finds a small tribe and marries a young woman and they have a child. Time passes and during a feat of nature Moses encounters God in the form of young boy who directs Moses to return to Egypt and free his people from slavery.
Ridley Scott offers two stories that are both inherently about relationships. One story is of a group of people standing up to the authority that has enslaved them and finding an identity as a people, the other story is about the relationship with religion and the judgments of God. While the portrayal of the Israelites and Egyptians is mostly rendered to one-sided battles and torturous ultimatums levied at the hands of Ramses, Scott is able to pull some genuine intriguing questions from the relationship the people and Moses have with their God. The bold decision to render the image of God in the persona of a young, petulant boy may be offensive to some; however it serves the purpose of displaying God’s angered finality with the people of Egypt. The deadly judgment coming in the form of plagues is an extravagance to watch, it’s part science fiction part disaster film. In the best scene Moses talks with God, who is only seen to him, before the final plague of the death of the first-born child. Moses is tormented, pleading with God for compassion due to his kinship with Ramses who has a sole child. The ensuing scene is a simplistic slow consuming darkness that is then accompanied by moans and wails. It’s upsetting and affecting, it portrays the complications and doubt when trying to understand the judgment and reasoning of higher powers out of human control.
It’s unfortunate that most of the quality storytelling features are undercut by questionable casting of characters. Christian Bale attempts to hold the film together but is relinquished to shouting matches with the elements and Ramses. Joel Edgerton as Ramses feels the most out of place, aside from John Turturro, as the Egyptian Pharaoh. While this kind of casting was a familiar practice for American epics of the past, it would seem that time would have offered talent from some of the similar regions being depicted in the film. Alas, the actors do their best to keep the film moving from scene to scene.
The film leads to the final effect laden battle within a parted Red Sea, a final sentiment of the relationship between man’s ambitions versus God’s intentions. Unfortunately the film never expels on this theme. Instead “Exodus: Gods and Kings” resembles the final scene, a film that moves through the murky mud of a disjointed narrative trying to make it from one side to the other while trying to avoid the wave of flaws that will inevitably consume it.
2.50 out of 5.00