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Exodus: Gods and Kings (2014)
Straightforward but fresh retelling of the biblical tale
Exodus is very much an epic I had always wished for, in terms of both scale and storyline. It is impossible to not admit the fact that Ridley Scott has a great eye in visualizing written material into a spectacle and at the same time keeping it grounded in reality. Throughout the man's career, be it one of his good or bad movies, the way he presents the story on screen has always been a treat to watch.
The movie begins with Ramses (Joel Edgerton) and Moses (Christian Bale) already in the cream of their lives, close as brothers. Their relationship begins to drift when the priestess's interpretation of omens start becoming true in the battle against the Hittites in the beginning. It was one of my favorite scenes in the entire movie, when Ramses is saved by Moses and they look at each other for a moment with both doubt and discomfort in their eyes.
Nun (Ben Kingsley), a Hebrew elder, tells Moses about his true ethnicity and how he was raised by the Pharaoh's family as one of their own. The word reaches Ramses and he exiles Moses from his kingdom, not wanting to harm him, despite Tuya (Sigourney Weaver), Ramses' mother wanting him dead. Moses travels to another town, where he eventually marries Zipporah (Maria Valverde). 9 years pass, and Moses, now a shepherd and a normal family man in the Hebrew community, climbs Mount Sinai where he encounters God.
Christian Bale gives a sincere performance throughout the movie, and makes it seem quite effortless. His is the only character with emotional depth. His changeover from a prince to an ordinary shepherd and then to God's own mediator is smoothly convincing. He is not the typical prophet, he questions God at times and his own actions. There are moments when he's unsure of the consequences of his decisions. He painfully leaves his wife and son to obey God's command, and is also reluctant to harm the people that grew up with and loved.
Joel Edgerton is a perfect cast, but sadly, there isn't much on his plate. However, he does justice to his role exceedingly well, with ego and envy clearly visible in his eyes. I cannot think of anyone who could have done better. The scenes where he lovingly looks at his sleeping child and the agony after his death is the only hint we get at the man's inner qualities.
All Ben Kingsley does is tell Moses about the prophecy. Aaron Paul and Sigourney Weaver are the other big names who do not have much to contribute. John Turturro is almost unrecognizable as Seti, Ramses' father.
God's portrayal is remarkably fitting. Ridley's idea of not showing deep echoing voices or big flashes of light but instead, choosing a boy to play the part worked unexpectedly well. He seeks vengeance for the ill-treatment of the Hebrews under the Pharaoh's oppressive rule. He commands Moses to begin attacking Egypt and when Moses struggles he unleashes his wrath himself, with a series of harsh plagues and finally the killing of every Egyptian child.
Scott is a master in building cinematic worlds. From the aerial shots of ancient urban Egypt, the battle, the plagues, to the final parting of the Red Sea, the movie showcases magnificent visuals. With over 1300 special effects in it, Scott's imagination seems unbound. His longtime collaborator Dariusz Wolski (DoP) has captured the moments with beautiful color, composition and lighting.
Besides the lack of proper character development, writers Adam Cooper, Bill Collage, Jeffrey Caine and Steven Zaillian have created an entertaining and sensible material. There are a handful of good, memorable dialogues and beautifully dramatic scenes apart from the grand ones.
Exodus is a straightforward retelling of the biblical tale, unlike Darren Aronofsky's Noah which was far more thought provoking and intense. Exodus is more like Ridley's underrated gem, Kingdom Of Heaven but far more entertaining.
Exodus is his biggest epic yet. His take on the well-known tale is genuine and fresh. The movie progresses fluidly to the end and delivers its promise, largely because of the director's unique skill, leaving us awestruck with excellent action, decent performances and stunning visual grandeur.