Virtually adopted as the brother of the prince who became Pharaoh Ramses, the general Moses discovers that he is of the same race as the slaves of Egypt and is cast out. Several encounters with a God he did not believe in sets Moses on a mission to free the 600,000 Hebrew slaves, but Ramses sees things differently and in his defiance incurs a number of plagues that eventually force his hand, and so an epic chase ensues with the fate of an entire race hanging in the balance.
A new Ridley Scott movie is always worth a look, even if you don’t come out loving it, you miss them at the risk of missing a possible classic on its first run. The classics are certainly fewer and further between these days but his films are usually a visual treat at the very least.
Following Darren Aronofsky into a bid to try and bring back the Biblical Epic, Scott has chosen to have a crack at the Moses story, or at least the first half of it anyway, taking us to the part where the Hebrews reach the desert that they get stuck in for some unseemly amount of time.
Not going the full distance as was attempted with the Charlton Heston starring, The Ten Commandments, Exodus, with a shorter running time, though still quite long by modern standards, is given more room to breathe and explore the circumstances and context of the time the story is set in, which is rather neat, giving us by far the best glimpse of ancient Egypt that has ever been put to film, in both aesthetics and politics.
Unfortunately this insight does not extend into character. In this large cast only Christian Bale’s Moses and Joel Edgerton’s Ramses are given anything resembling a third dimension, leaving such fantastic character actors as John Turturro, Aaron Paul and Ben Kingsley almost nothing to get their teeth into, and even then, marks are frequently missed when it comes to giving those two characters significant emotional punch.
Like Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ, Exodus adds more complexity and detail to its interpretations of divine happenings, grounding them and adding ambiguity all at the same time. This goes even further though, throwing in the suggestion that Moses could potentially be a mad man, leaving a film that none believers might not think too preachy while still relaying the points of the story, despite it being impossible to, in any way, rationalise a spirit that kills all first-born sons, or, y’know, the parting of a sea; so in this too it is still only partially successful.
The visuals and CGFX are another matter entirely. As mentioned the design aesthetic of this ancient Egypt is wonderful, but the visual FX that realise this and every other element of the film are absolutely seamless, the landscapes and blockbuster FX sequences outdoing even something like the latest Hobbit movie; you never once question the rendered world that you are presented with.
With this there are some sequences where the visuals, writing, directing and acting all come together to form quite impressive segments of the movie, and parts that deserve to be impressive at that, such as the deadly plagues on Egypt and, of course, the race to freedom via the parted Red Sea.
So while there are excellent elements to Exodus, it’s just not enough to compensate for the fact that you already know the outcome of the story or that the characters are not deep or relatable enough. It’s worth a look, but it won’t shift your faith one iota, in fact the odds are good you’ll start forgetting about it from the moment you walk away from the cinema.