Review: Exodus: Gods and Kings
Killer crocodiles, locust swarms, a prophecy by Ben Kingsley, a potent performance by Christian Bale, and of course that massive parting and subsequent re-parting of the Red Sea make up Exodus. Despite these seemingly momentous factors, this Ridley Scott film, with the awkward subtitle Gods and Kings, is devoid of anything the least bit remarkable.
It’s exceedingly peculiar watching this oft-told biblical story unravel; you know, suspect there is should be something more and wind up searching around for it in the film. Bale’s Moses is frequently left confused, wondering where this journey will take him; the viewer feels the same way.
This workmanlike story, lacking imagination, is in many ways antithesis of last year’s blockbuster bible tale, Darren Aronofsky’s Noah. There, the director took a familiar tale and imbued it with his particular, eccentric artistic vision. Here though, there is no interpretation, just utilitarianism. Scott is adept at handling epics, but while this is a tale large in quantify and scope, it has no punch beyond the visually visceral.
Bale leads a cast of noted actors covered in makeup and costumes, with Joel Edgerton disappearing as Moses’ adopted brother turned foe, Pharaoh Ramses. Kingsley, Aaron Paul, Sigourney Weaver, Jon Turturro and Ben Mendelson all pop up as well, but worthy turns can’t buoy a film with all style and no substance.
Strangely, Exodus isn’t rather religious, but unfortunately it doesn’t speak t much else either. It seems to serve no purpose other than to entertain, which is all well and good. The problem comes with it trying to pretend it’s something greater instead of the serviceable story it really is. It looks to appeal to everyone (it’s also PG-13), and in doing so doesn’t really strike anyone.
The highest-budget, most visually arresting and best-acted TV movie there is, Exodus astounds with its sights, but little is left beyond that. At two and a half hours, part of the story unfolds too rapidly for anything to settle in, and Moses’ transformation simply checks boxes on a list.
Of course, once the plagues are unleashed, Exodus itself morphs into a tempered bloody and violent action thriller, capped off with an ending that despite knowing what will happen is mesmerizing through and through. I suppose in that case, it’s worth the journey.