Exodus: Gods And Kings cements the return of the Biblical epic. For years it looked as though the sub-genre of Bible story adaptations was done and dusted, gone were things like The Ten Commandments while even Mel Gibson’s The Passion Of The Christ felt a much more intimate story than it did grand. But it seems the Bible is making a comeback amid all the comic book adaptations. Last year Darren Aronofsky gave us the wonderfully bonkers Noah and now one of Hollywood’s most big-scale directors Ridley Scott has turned his attention to the story of Moses.
The film rarely strays far from the source material charted in the Book Of Exodus. The prologue only briefly touches on Moses and his basket before throwing us head-first into a battle wherein the Egyptians, led by Ramses (Joel Edgerton) and his adopted brother Moses (Christian Bale), defeat the Hittite Army. But in the process Moses saves Ramses’ life putting into motion a prophecy that leads Ramses to believe Moses will usurp him as ruler of Egypt. With Moses cast out he soon finds God and together they will free the Jews while bringing bloody mayhem down on Egypt.
Ridley Scott has always had a bit of a fascination with god-like beings. From the wealthy living in pyramids in Blade Runner, the idea of the Emperor as a god in Gladiator right through to more recent efforts in Prometheus with mankind literally meeting his maker and realising he isn’t that keen on us. Exodus seems like a logical step for the world-building filmmaker and he never misses a beat to conjure images and ideas of biblical proportion.
It’s visually staggering, every scene incorporating ideas of majesty and a sense of scale rarely seen on screen these days. It is a hark back to the golden era of Hollywood. There’s a moody sensibility to it, Scott utilising visual effects to heighten the ideas of a vengeful God watching over everything. But where Exodus really works is in dealing with the idea of God, man and the egos that drive religion. While Ramses stomps around spouting on about how he is a god the real God takes the form of a petulant child. So while the early politics of the film often lag a little the idea presented of a god’s point of view of humanity is riveting.
The performances waver between the sublime to the theatrical. Sigourney Weaver seems slightly wasted as Ramses’ cunning mother. John Turturro is often a little too camp to be fully believable as a Pharaoh while Ben Mendelsohn’s sniveling politician remains too villainous from the get-go. Thankfully Joel Edgerton is wonderfully boisterous and arrogant as Ramses, often managing to find levels of insecurity to implant just beneath all the ranting and raving. Bale meanwhile does what he does best; carries the film on his broad shoulders with a sense of early De Niro like gravity. At the beginning there is a cocky charm to his performance that soon descends into something more pensive as the stakes are raised.
A sprawling, sweeping film with ideas to burn and visuals to dazzle Exodus: Gods And Kings is big budget filmmaking of biblical proportions.