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Judy Thorburn's Movie Reviews

Exodus: Gods & Kings | Christian Bale, Joel Edgerton, Sigourney Weaver, John Turturro, Ben Kingsley, Aaron Paul | Review

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3sm The Flick Chicks movie rating for this film is MEDIOCRE Judy Thorburn

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3lg The Flick Chicks movie rating for this film is MEDIOCRE

 

Exodus: Gods & Kings

True believers, and/or those faithful to the written word of the bible are in for a rude awakening if they think Ridley Scott's latest film spectacle, the $140 million, 'Exodus: Gods and Kings' plays out true to the holy book.  Many may take offense to the new version which, by the way, is a far cry from Cecil B. DeMille's grand epic 1958 The Ten Commandments starring a larger than life Charleston Heston and Yul Brynner.

Director Scott, who also cowrote the screen play with four others (Adam Cooper, Bill Collage, Jeffrey Caine and Steve Zaillian) have taken liberties, using creative license in reimagining the details and events of the biblical Moses and his quest to free his people from the enslavement of the Egyptian Pharaoh.  Several elements of the story are eliminated or glossed over while others have been dramatically changed.

Set in 1300 BCE (before the common era, or as Christians designate, before Christ), the story picks up with an adult Moses (Christian Bale) raised as as Ramses brother and as an Egyptian Prince, who soon discovers his true Jewish roots. Upon revealing his heritage to an angry Ramses (Joel Edgerton), Moses is then exiled into the desert, where he encounters the Almighty, before returning to his people and leading their Exodus to The Promised Land.

That is the gist of the story, as if you you didn't already know it.  I am a big fan of Christian Bale, but he seems miscast as a tortured, self doubting Moses. On the other hand, Joel Edgerton fares better and is more believable, delivering a strong, layered performance as the complex, ruthless, seething Ramses who takes the throne after his father dies. In this version, the relationship between Ramses and Moses is marked by sibling rivalry and jealousy on Ramses part. Speaking of brotherly dynamics, the director dedicated this film to his late brother Tony Scott, who committed suicide 2 years ago.

Torn between love and hate for Moses, with whom he had shared a close relationship, there is a great line (probably the best) in the film, that offers a glimpse of Ramses innermost feelings. Standing over his young son's cradle, he says, “You sleep so well, my boy, because you know you’re loved. I’ve never slept so well”.

Sigourney Weaver (as Ramses mother, Tuyo), John Turturro (as Ramses father, Pharoah Seti) Ben Kingsley (as Nun, the elder leader of the Hebrew slaves) and a bearded, almost unrecognizable, Aaron Paul (as Joshua) appear briefly, and are wasted in what amounts to nothing more than cameo roles.  Other characters also pop up and then disappear by the wayside. Many, such as yours truly, will also find the actors speaking in various accents a distraction. I was especially curious as to why Bale's British accent is inconsistent, fluctuating from strong to barely noticeable, throughout the movie.

More important are the revised elements that clearly differentiate from the biblical accounts. And there are many.  Moses is also depicted as a General in the Pharoah's army.  He does encounter a burning bush that grabs his attention, but it is nearby that G-d appears and speaks to Moses in the form of a commanding, petulant young boy (11 year old British actor Isaac Andrews) that calls himself “I AM”.  Left out are the scenes where, upon visiting Ramses's court, Moses turns his wooden staff into a serpent and then turns the waters of the Nile red with blood.  The ten plagues are conveyed beginning with an attack by a mass of giant crocodiles (where did that come from?) followed by an onslaught of frogs, swarms of locusts, pestilence, disfiguring boils, and ultimately, the killing of every Egyptian's first-born son. Yet, Scott offers up a more naturalistic explanation of the miracles attributed to G-d's intervention.

Instead of Moses raising his staff to part the Red Sea, waterspouts form to cause the waters to recede so that the 600,000 Hebrew slaves can walk cross it safely before a tsunami envelopes and kills the pursuing Egyptian army led by Ramses. By the way, rather than a staff, Moses carries around a sword that matches Ramses. He never recites the words “let my people go”. And, instead bolts of lightning bolts sent down from the heavens that inscribe the ten commandments on a slab of stone, Moses is seen chiseling the commandments on stone as dictated by G-d, that falls just short of being comedic.

Nevertheless, the filmmaker gets points for delivering another grand scale epic featuring visually stunning special effects, set design, and awesome aerial shots, although I found a glaring mistake in regards to the appearance of the Sphinx.  Shown with its nose cut off, that actually didn't occur until the mid 20th century AD. Someone clearly dropped the ball big time on that one.

The way I see it, Scott's re-envisioned version of the Exodus may appear blasphemous if not controversial, but if you remove the faith based aspects, it is fair to say, while not a great film, you still get an action adventure of biblical proportions.

 

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