Rated: PG-13 for violence including battle sequences and intense images. Reviewed by: Jim Release date: December 12, 2014 Released by: Twentieth Century Fox
Ridley Scott's Exodus: Gods and Kings may be big and impressive especially in its ornate set-pieces, but doesn't nearly rise to his earlier Gladiator grandeur with Ancient Egypt with visual imagery (alas, the enormity of water and parting of the Red Sea) rising above characterization and plotting replete with ambition and betrayal.
Maybe a Cleopatra this isn't in espousing the true origins of sacrificial, valiant Moses (Christian Bale of Out of the Furnace and The Fighter) as a journey and yearning of freedom is realized differently than what Cecil B. DeMille did for Charlton Heston in The Ten Commandments. Especially from the start as Moses in the army of Egyptians under the rule of a compassionate Pharaoh Seti (John Turturro) who heeds prognostications. A battle against the Hittites early on reveals the filmmakers detailed proficiency in logistics.
Instead of Yul Brenner there is the contrasting sibling in decked-out, much eye-lined Egyptian Pharaoh Rhamses (Joel Edgerton of The Great Gatsby, the one with Leonardo DiCaprio) whose wanton, materialistic narcissism brings out a defiant side in Moses. He learns by way of Ben Kingsley's sagely elder Nun of his Hebrew descent driven to lead roughly half a million slaves out of Egypt after exiled.
A steely, if susceptible Bale is the only actor able to give more than a one-note performance and has issue with I Am precocious English child which many may find curious rather than previously just heard. An A-list cast includes Sigourney Weaver really given little to do as Tuya and Aaron Paul (Need For
Speed) hardly impresses as Joshua. But, in the international casting Mar'a Valverde is beguiling as Moses' wife and Hiam Abbass as Rhames's preferred missus. Maybe even Ben Mendelsohn's Hegep stands out in a most unctuous, sexually ambiguous example of avarice.
There will be the calamitous slaughtering of the lambs but the onset of cyclical lethal plagues may sate some of the primary demographic. Creepiness is bestowed on the likes of Rhamses's wife (Golshifteh Farahani) with jumpy, icky frogs in accordance with infestations schools of dead fish, maggots and insect swarms of a sanguine Nile complements of thrashing crocodiles.
Maybe Scott doesn't realize his settings and allusions as well as the recent Noah (which some found to be pretty outlandish and audacious for its own good) though many will be on the edge of their seats during a pretty petrifying chariot pursuit along the side of a cliff. This Biblical epic, with Bale in nearly every frame, is religiously subdued and decently accoutered almost like a fable.
Nonetheless, in its dramatic depiction of gods and kings Exodus hardly lords over of the swords-and-sand genre with the dynamic between Moses and Rhamses not really taking hold (or too lopsided). For some, there may be considerable theatrical power to the physical spectacle but not truly or dynamically complemented by a production (notably in terms of the score) that yields a less poignant and involving scaled down portrait than Scott did with Russell Crowe and Joaquin Phoenix in Ancient Rome.
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