Director: Ridley Scott
Starring: Christian Bale, Joe Edgerton, John Turturro, Aaron Paul, Ben Mendelsohn, María Valverde, Sigourney Weaver, Ben Kingsley
Written by: Adam Cooper, Bill Collage, Jeffrey Caine and Steven Zaillian
Running Time: 150 mins
Release date: 26th December 2014
Hollywood always has a flavour of the month (or year) and this time its Biblical epics. We have already had the strange Noah and now we have Moses, directed by the man who was born to make large-scale film versions of Old Testament tales, Sir Ridley Scott. If you want big, old-school visual delights, then this is your movie. Just try to ignore the rather awkward drama during the quieter moments.
Moses and Ramses have been brought up as brothers. They have lived and fought side by side, until a prophecy tells of how one will save the other and then become a leader. Ramses is sold by this and is concerned that Moses will be more powerful than him. During a battle, Moses does exactly what is spoken and saves his brother. Things start to go downhill, with Ramses’s jealousy and paranoia making him do things that Moses does not like. Banishing Moses, it soon turns out that God has a very different path for him to follow.
There is no denying that Ridley Scott can make this kind of movie with his eyes closed and his hands behind his back. The set pieces are spectacular. From the opening battle scene which is reminiscent of the power and majesty of Gladiator, to the utterly shocking plagues scenes, in which Ramses’ kingdom is riddled with locusts, frogs and, in a very grisly manner, crocodiles. Leading up to the finale, the parting of the Red Sea, which starts off as a disappointment but then delivers, is exactly what you expect from Scott and his team of CGI artists.
Scott is a master at this kind of thing. Even in his weakest films, Robin Hood, for example, he still manages to carry off the huge battles and has a brilliant eye for the visuals. Where he does struggle is with the more human moments and quieter scenes. Here is no exception.
Removing the first section of Moses’s life and coming straight in with the future leader as a young man, playful towards his half-brother is perfectly fine. The scenes between the two men are handled well and instantly shows us their relationship. Yet as soon as that bonding goes sour, the film starts to lose its way, especially when Moses is banished and the men are apart.
Long, unevenly paced scenes follow, with Moses finding happiness with a wife in a small village while Ramses slowly becomes more power-hungry and manic…except he doesn’t and this is a problem. The huge scale of the piece needs to be filled with bigger dramatic moments, except Ramses is played down and is far too self-controlled for any reasoning behind his actions. Scott wants us to see Ramses, not as a monster but as human being. For the events that happen to work, he needs to be as horrendous as possible.
The dialogue sometimes sounds wrong and considering six writers worked on the screenplay (only four being credited) you would have expected something better than the mishmash of Old Testament and modern colloquialism. I’m also uncertain about the decision of making God into a London kid. At the time, it felt right because it was so extreme and different but the more I think about it, the more I believe it was a massive misstep.
The performances also feel uneven, along with the rest of the film. Christian Bale comes out of it better than most as Moses, showing us a much more tender side than we have seen and he does command each scene he appears in. Joe Edgerton is a fine actor and a finer writer (just watch Animal Kingdom for proof) yet he seems miscast here as Ramses. He is far too nice and seems lost amongst the epicness of the piece. Ben Kingsley sends in another typical solid Kingsley performance while the casting of Sigourney Weaver is a massive wrong-footing as she is completely out-of-place with the rest of the company.
Exodus: Kings And Gods is not a perfect piece of work by a long shot. It does showcase the best and the worst of Ridley Scott and at 2 and a half hours long, it may test the patience of its audience. What is so frustrating about the film is that you can see this could have been Scott’s best and I feel bad that it isn’t, especially as it is dedicated to his brother, Tony. The best thing to do is watch it for the epic set pieces and try to erase everything else.