The theme is the founding of the state of Israel. The action begins on a ship filled with Jewish immigrants bound for Israel who are being off loaded on Cyprus. An Intelligence officer succeeds in getting them back on board their ship only to have the harbor blocked by the British with whom they must negotiate. The second part of the film is about the situation in Israel as independence is declared and most of their neighbors attack them. Written by
John Vogel <email@example.com>
There are many moments throughout the film where the shadows of the camera equipment can be seen. See more »
The island of Cyprus, madame. World famous for beauty, and long, tragic history. Been conquered many times, conquered by Phoenicians, Assyrians, Persians, Macedonians; also conquered by Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Turks. Purchased from Turkey by your esteemed self, the British Empire. All Cyprus most wanted the British.
I'm an American.
Fond of Americans, also; we Cypriots are fond of everybody.
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Opening credits shown over a background of flames. See more »
Hard to View Today as it Was in 1960; Best Remembered Now for its Score
Seeing "Exodus" early in the 21st century, one is robbed of the experience that moviegoers of the early 1960s would have had; it's impossible to see a movie about the birth of Israel now without the perspective of the Six-Day War of 1967, which changed the perception many non-Jews had of Israel. That, and the events that the Six-Day War led to, have eroded the moral assurance that many of the main characters of "Exodus" espouse about Israel and its founding, and would eventually lead to the moral quagmire found 45 years later in Steven Spielberg's "Munich." Today, "Munich" is much closer to the grayness of who is right or wrong in the modern-day Middle East than the black-and-white assumptions that drive the characters of "Exodus" in 1947 -- or its creators in 1960.
And it's likewise much harder to accept Paul Newman in the role of a Jewish freedom fighter; though he was already a big star in 1960 (which was no doubt the reason that he was chosen for the part), one cannot evaluate his performance here without recalling all the other high points of his career that were still ahead of him -- "The Hustler," "Cool Hand Luke," "Hombre," and of course his two big triumphs with Robert Redford, as Butch and Sundance and in "The Sting" -- not to mention a career that kept humming even into the 1990s. He's hardly remembered for this role at all today, and though even he isn't in every scene in a sweeping epic like this, it's hard to look at the movie without remembering all that would come later.
What stands out today more than Newman's performance, therefore, are the many secondary characters -- Sal Mineo as the tortured survivor of Auschwitz with secrets that lead him to the Irgun (and a performance that would earn him his second and last Oscar nomination); David Opatoshu as a Menachem Begin-like figure who believes violence is better than negotiation; and Jill Haworth, all of 15 at the time, and who would have a bevy of ingénue roles into the 1960s, but whose career would dribble out by the end of the next decade.
In particular, this was a great role for Opatoshu, who is probably best remembered today for his many guest shots on television (like Newman, most that came after this, in everything from "Twilight Zone" and "Mission:Impossible" to "Star Trek" and "Hawaii Five-O"). Though he is recognizable for those roles, it's worth remembering that he came out of Yiddish Theater and was a controlled, subtle performer who rarely got the kind of meaty role that he had here -- and one that no doubt was important to him.
So, while it's mainly remembered today for Ernest Gold's stirring theme music, "Exodus" is interesting as a window into a different time and a different way of thinking -- both about its subject matter and its main character . . . and the once and future star who played him.
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