Christian Bale as Moses
Joel Edgerton as Ramses II
John Turturro as Seti I
Aaron Paul as Joshua
Ben Kingsley as Nun
Sigourney Weaver as Tuya
In theaters December 12
2 out of 5
Exodus: Gods and Kings, the newest cinematic retelling of the story of Moses, former prince of Egypt, who delivers the Hebrew slaves from the Egyptian Pharaoh’s bondage, is okay at best. There has been some backlash about the lack of African American casting, but that is the least of this film’s problems. Exodus tries its best to be a sprawling epic and in some places it has the easy feel of the 1956 Cecil B. DeMille Ten Commandments, but without all the gaudiness and subplots and without the flair of the original. This version paints Moses not as a crusader, but as an unwilling accomplice carrying out God’s will. God’s first visitation to Moses is in the form of a vision that Moses has after being knocked unconscious from a mountain rockslide. So from that point on you’re not sure if God really did visit Moses or if this is all a hallucination. God comes to Moses not as an all imposing omnipotent presence, but as an impatient, petulant child who is more like a goading conscience asking, “Are we there yet?”
Christian Bale is somewhat effective here, but it’s kind of hard to take him seriously sometimes without thinking Bat-Moses. Joel Edgerton (The Great Gatsby, Zero Dark Thirty) is adequate as Ramses with all the swag and attitude befitting a ruler. There is a brief moment where it’s hard not to chuckle at the sight of these two who have been raised as brothers, actually crossing swords. There are some brilliant actors in the cast including John Turturo as Seti, Breaking Bad’s Aaron Paul as Joshua, and Ben Kinglsey as Nun, the man who informs Moses of who he is and where he really comes from. As brilliant as these actors are, the rest of the cast really feels like an afterthought, especially since some of the performances are so brief. Sigourney Weaver makes a slight appearance as well, but I’m sure it was just as a favor to director Ridley Scott since they have history, because she really adds nothing by being there.
Special effects are somewhat subdued. The plagues that are visited on Egypt are presented in a more grounded than grandiose fashion. There seems to be a lack of majesty. The parting of the Red Sea is always the centerpiece for any telling of the story of Moses and its presentation here is also presented with some flair, but that takes a backseat to the tension of the moment. No matter what version of the Moses story you’re familiar with, it is always interesting to see.
On the whole, it is a somewhat entertaining movie, but it is two and a half hours long, so you might want to hit the rest room first. Personally, if I’m going to sit that long, there better be a dragon or some hobbits involved. If you are a person of Faith, then this movie might be worth seeing, otherwise you’d probably get more of a thrill from hitting up Netflix for the 1956 Ten Commandments, or the 1998 animated Prince of Egypt (so overlooked).
Check out the trailer for “EXODUS: GODS AND KINGS” below: