Combustible Celluloid
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With: Christian Bale, Joel Edgerton, John Turturro, Aaron Paul, Ben Mendelsohn, Maria Valverde, Sigourney Weaver, Ben Kingsley, Isaac Andrews, Hiam Abbass, Indira Varma, Ewen Bremner, Golshifteh Farahani, Ghassan Massoud, Tara Fitzgerald, Maria Valverde, Andrew Barclay Tarbet
Written by: Adam Cooper, Bill Collage, Jeffrey Caine, Steven Zaillian
Directed by: Ridley Scott
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for violence including battle sequences and intense images
Running Time: 150
Date: 12/12/2014

Exodus: Gods and Kings (2014)

2 Stars (out of 4)


By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Ridley Scott's Biblical epic Exodus: Gods and Kings, which tells the story of Moses freeing the Jewish slaves from the pharaohs of Egypt, fails on many levels, but the main one is that it's a droning bore.

Even the sorrowful moans that accompany the soundtrack score seem to echo the sentiment.

Scott's somber approach leaves no room for any kind of emotional or spiritual connection to the material, and it's difficult to drum up much sympathy or interest.

Moreover, unlike Cecil B DeMille's classic The Ten Commandments (1956) or the animated The Prince of Egypt (1998), this movie isn't funny or campy enough to be purely entertaining.

Only the Seven Plagues offer some kind of nasty distraction from the tedium. With horror movie mayhem, crocodiles snack on hundreds of extras and turn the Nile red, and slimy frogs infiltrate the Pharaoh's palace.

But the other plagues, especially the deaths of the firstborns, quickly put a damper on the fun. Even the climactic parting of the Red Sea is less impressive than in DeMille's movie.

Christian Bale plays Moses like a combination of Hamlet and Rambo, deadly serious, but able to kick some serious tail in battle. His character falls in love (with Maria Valverde) and marries, but with all the romance of a perfume ad.

Joel Edgerton is more interesting as the bad pharaoh, Rhamses, coming across as a wall of artificial bluster designed to hide an inferiority complex. When he declares "I am the god!" he's as much trying to convince himself as anyone else.

Occasionally familiar faces turn up, like John Turturro, Aaron Paul, Sigourney Weaver, or Ben Kingsley, accompanied by a note of recognition, but little else.

But why we're even here is another question. Scott doesn't particularly seem to believe in his story. He has taken precautions to distance himself from religious association.

God appears here as a creepy child, and for some reason, whenever Moses and God talk, the movie shows a third character spying on them. In the spy's point of view, God is not visible, and it appears as if Moses is ranting to himself.

Scott doesn't seem particularly suited to these big battle epics, although he is continually drawn to them. Exodus feels not unlike the interminable slogs through Robin Hood, Kingdom of Heaven, and even the freakishly overrated Oscar-winner Gladiator.

Recently, he had detoured back into smarter, better movies with Prometheus and The Counsellor, and it's a shame to see him slip again. With Exodus: Gods and Kings, rather than letting his people go, he has let them down.

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