WRITTEN BY: Adam Cooper, Bill Collage, Jeffrey Caine and Steven Zaillian
DIRECTED BY: Ridley Scott
STARRING: Christian Bale, Joel Edgerton, Ben Mendelsohn, Aaron Paul, John Turturro
RATING: 2.5 stars
Moses rising up against Egyptian Pharaoh Ramses to free the slaves after a series of plagues is one of the most well-known Biblical stories, so it is perhaps a little odd that we would get yet another retelling of the story on film. Unlike Noah, which gave audiences a different take on that religious saga, Exodus: Gods and Kings mostly just goes through the motions. It has been directed by stellar film-maker Ridley Scott, so of course, the spectacle factor gets two thumbs up. Unfortunately, the film is far too long and a poor script from Adam Cooper, Bill Collage, Jeffrey Caine and Steven Zaillian lets everyone down. I recall watching cartoons of this very same story as a child that only ran for 20 minutes, so I'm not sure why the film needed to be dragged out to 150 minutes. Ultimately, Exodus: Gods and Kings is visually stunning in parts, but that is all it really offers.
Christian Bale is impressive as Moses, seeming effortless in his portrayal of a strong but also vulnerable protagonist. He is abandoned by Ramses (Joel Edgerton) when his Herbrew heritage is revealed and his character arc is long and important as he strives for justice. Meanwhile, Edgerton gets to wear the best regal costumes and throw tantrums, which he must have relished. While he gives a good performance, he looks strange with the Egyptian make-up and it was distracting at times. However, his relationship with his son gives the character depth. Ben Mendelsohn is also entertaining as the slimy Hegep, intent on gaining more power. Minor roles have also been given to distinguished actors including Aaron Paul, Sigourney Weaver and Ben Kingsley but they each have so little to work with and that is such a shame. John Turturro also has a small role as Ramses' father and his is one of the more likeable characters.
The film is at its strongest during the epic plague scenes including crocodiles, frogs, maggots, flies and locusts. Some of the images are quite graphic and the sound effects are haunting. The parting of the sea before the wall of water comes crashing down on the chariots is also brilliant, especially in 3D. The depiction of God as a child may cause some controversy, but I think it worked well. In fact, these aspects of the film work so well that had it been better edited to run half an hour shorter, perhaps the film could have been more entertaining overall.