Exodus: Gods and Kings - film review

Melissa York
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Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings

Cert 12a | ★★★☆☆

Many great directors have earned a place in history by tackling the juicier parts of the Bible, but with Exodus, Ridley Scott may have bitten off more than he can chew. As with Darren Aronofsky’s Noah earlier this year, it seems to mistake an epic running time for epic cinema, clocking in at around two and a half hours. The beginning of the film – Moses growing up with pharoah-in-waiting Rameses, finding out he’s a Hebrew, wandering the desert – goes on for much longer than it should when you know rivers of blood and locusts are round the corner.
But lo and behold, when the plagues do strike, it’s Biblical in every sense and the spectacle delivers everything you’d expect from a $200m blockbuster. The aesthetic veers wildly between high flamboyance (Rameses won’t wear it unless it’s GOLD) and unrelenting grime – Moses actually has to wipe the mud out of his eyes to see the burning bush. When God does appear, he takes the form of a surly child with the intonation of Russell Crowe at his most pedantic, but somehow it works. He seems suggestive and calm when put against the aggressively dogmatic fraternal rivalry that dominates this film.
Christian Bale (pictured) is on brooding form as Moses, but there’s something in his character’s pragmatic approach that makes him hard to root for. One gets the impression that, rather than wanting to emancipate a race of people that have been enslaved for 400 years, he’s really out to prove that his God is better than his step-brothers’. The whole thing is essentially a God-off, as the subtitle suggests, between Rameses the Great, who is convinced of his own divinity even when he’s faced with the death of his son, and the almighty God of the Old Testament.
Timeless it isn’t, but Exodus still makes for an entertaining spectacle with a cautionary tale at its core. Men who play gods – beware.


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