Retelling the story of Moses for biblical epic Exodus: Gods and Kings, Ridley Scott doesn’t stint on the spectacle.
When it comes to the ten plagues of Egypt and the parting of the Red Sea he pulls out all the stops with entertaining gusto. The Nile here doesn’t simply run red; it has ferocious crocodiles snapping up the locals, too. It’s the stuff in between the set-piece scenes that’s the problem.
Christian Bale’s ardent Moses and Joel Edgerton’s decadent Ramses, his jealous adoptive brother turned bitter foe, are nowhere near as hammy as Charlton Heston and Yul Brynner in the same roles in Cecil B DeMille’s 1956 classic The Ten Commandments. But their rivalry is more turgid than gripping, and when Moses gets banished to the desert the drama runs into the sand.
This is where Moses encounters God, bizarrely personified here as a somewhat peevish English public school boy. The touch is bold verging on foolhardy. Even more contentious, however, is the suggestion that the encounter – and hence the entire justification for Moses’ divine mission – only exists in his unbalanced mind. Scott doesn’t linger on this, more’s the pity, and overall his approach lacks the daring conviction of Darren Aronofsky’s magnificently barmy Noah.
When Moses accepts his mission to free the Hebrew slaves from their Egyptian bondage things pick up, fortunately, with the desperate flight of the slaves and the Egyptians’ vengeful pursuit following hard on the heels of lively guerrilla skirmishes and those pesky plagues. The sequences are certainly eye-catching, but their over reliance on CGI-driven special effects will probably make the film seem horribly dated in a few years’ time and render Scott’s epic storytelling less durable than DeMille’s overblown showmanship.
Certificate 12. Runtime 150 mins. Director Ridley Scott.
Exodus: Gods and Kings is released on DVD & Blu-ray by 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.
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