Dir: Ridley Scott
Cast: Christian Bale, Joel Edgerton, John Turturro, Aaron Paul, Ben Mendelsohn, Maria Valverde, Sigourney Weaver and Sir Ben Kingsley
Synopsis: The defiant leader Moses rises up against the Egyptian Pharaoh Ramses, setting 600,000 slaves on a monumental journey of escape from Egypt and its terrifying cycle of deadly plagues
*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review*
*Reviewer Note #2: I know I’ve been gone for a bit. I have been watching movies but I’ve been busy with school which has kept me from writing reviews. Sorry*
Before I start reviewing the movie I want to talk about the “White Washing” Controversy that is surrounding this movie, and has even caused many people to boycott it. This obviously is not the first time people have been trying to boycott a movie due to ethic casting. The other biblical film that came out this year Noah had some boycotts due to the casting and “changes” to the well-know story. Other occasions are Rooney Mara being cast as Tiger Lilly in the new Peter Pan film Pan, Idris Elba playing Heimdall in Thor and Thor: The Dark World got some people talking even though Marvel went the other way of the ethnic casting. Finally, the one I remember the most was M. Night Shyamalan’s The Last Airbender which caused an uproar by all the fans.
The thing I want to say about the ethnic casting is for me, it doesn’t matter. I can see both sides of the argument, but at the end of day we should judge a movie by its quality aka if it’s good or bad. Again, I see both sides of the situation and depending on the adaptation I do feel Hollywood should go the way of the “source material.” But, for the most part let the acting justify if the role should have been played by someone else.
Now, getting into Exodus: Gods and Kings, the movie doesn’t start with the usual baby Moses getting picked up from the river in a basket. Director Ridley Scott gives us a full grown Moses (Bale) and Ramses (Edgerton) who are generals in Ramses’ father, Pharaoh Seti (Turturro). The two go into battle and something happens that starts to cause a bit of a rift between the two that have been raised as brothers. Years later when Ramses is now Pharaoh, Moses finds out that he is not who he thinks he is by Nun (Kingsley), an elder slave, and is exiled for it when it gets back to Ramses.
Moses finds peace in a small village where he marries Zipporah (Valverde) and has a son. Of course if you know the story, Moses is called upon by God and tells him he must help his people (aka the slaves) and set them free, even if it means going to war with someone he thought of as a brother.
We all know the story of Moses and Ramses, so when the story starts to jump around in major gaps of time you don’t feel immediately lost, and even if you don’t know the story you’ll be okay too. But, with the run time being around two and a half hours long, the movie still feels like there is some stuff missing, which is a shame because the supporting cast is completely underused. Even Joel Edgerton who plays, arguably the villain of the movie Ramses is a bit used, which is a shame since he gets second billing and is the other important character of the story.
The movie does belong to Christian Bale. It’s not a bad thing either, he does try to humanize Moses to some extent – as does Edgerton with Ramses – but this Moses isn’t the normal Moses we know from the story. Obviously, he’s a general in the beginning of the movie, so this Moses knows how to fight and once he is put on his mission from God, he goes back to what he knows and starts to go on guerilla warfare type missions. This Moses is also not afraid to talk back to God and question him, God in this movie looks to be portrayed by a child that shows up at random times to talk to Moses.
I love Ridley Scott, as most people do, and while the war scene at the beginning is great to see, knowing he had a four hour cut of the movie first doesn’t surprise me. But, there is a lot that he cut out that I feel could have added to the story. Like I said, the supporting characters are really underused or not use at all. John Turturro as the Pharaoh has about five minutes of screentime before he passes away, Ben Kinglsey who feels like he would serve a greater purpose is just there, Aaron Paul who is almost unrecognizable really serves no purpose and could have been given an unknown actor if that’s how they were going to treat the character. Finally, Sigourney Weaver surprisingly only has about five lines in the movie and disappears after the first half hour, it nice to see the reunion of Scott and Weaver but it didn’t go anywhere. Maria Valverde might be the only one that gets some good material going but is a bit underwritten.
The relationship between Moses and Ramses is also a bit on and off. One minute you can believe the dynamic between them and the next you can’t. It is a bit distracting and frustrating as Scott is going in a different direction with the story and there are moments where you can clearly see that but Scott and the writers go into a somewhat generic by-the-books way of going with Moses and the film.
This isn’t to say Exodus: Gods and Kings isn’t a descent film. The plagues sequence is one of the major, if not the major highlight of the film. Although it comes into well into the middle of the movie so you have to wait around to see that. The CGI also looks pretty impressive with the heavily promoted Red Sea sequence. The other great part about the movie is the score, which is done by Alberto Iglesias, whom I’ve never heard of (even though I saw Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy).
All in all, Exodus: Gods and Kings isn’t entirely the same story we all known and the changes really don’t go anywhere or they completely change the dynamic of the story. Bale does a good job of bringing Moses to life and Edgerton has his moments to shine as Ramses. The great supporting cast is underused but is saved a bit by the score and Bale’s performance.
Exodus: Gods and Kings
3 out of 5