Kyle J. Steenblik

You might want to passover Exodus: Gods & Kings

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2 1/2 stars out of 5Exodus: Gods and Kings
Directed by: Ridley Scott
Written by: Steven Zaillian
exodus-gods-and-kings-FOX_EXO_1Sht_K_Pyramid_Duo_01_MECH-REV_VER-A_online_rgbStarring: Christian Bale, Joel Edgerton, John Turturro, Aaron Paul, Ben Mendelsohn, Sigourney Weaver, Ben Kingsley
Release date: December 12 2014
Rated PG-13 for violence including battle sequences and intense images

When a film tries to take a story that is, at its core, fundamentally flawed and tries to push it into the realm of reality, without fixing the narrative flaws the result is less than spectacular.  Such is the case with Exodus: Gods & Kings, a film plagued with flaws with little effort to resolve them.  I honestly wonder if Ridley Scott and Steven Zaillian were fully committed to this project.  The film struggled with pacing, tone and (ironically) believability.  I only include believability because I feel they were unable to sell the story they were trying to tell (I’ll expand on that later).  With all of that being said, I can still say I enjoyed the basic concept, and the grounding of the Exodus story, even where that grounding failed to find a good foundation.   The narrative missteps and the awkward pacing, not to mention the numerous lackluster (at best) performances, subvert the entertainment value of the film.

In 1300B.C., Moses (Christian Bale) and Prince Ramesses (Joel Edgerton) are cousins and generals in pharaoh Seti I (John Turturro) army.  Moses and Ramesses think of each other as brothers, and Seti thinks of Moses as a son.  When Moses is sent to Pithom to hear a plea from Viceroy Hegep for more guards to control the growing Hebrew slave population he finds corruption and a budding revolution.  Later he meets with Nun (Ben Kingsley) who reveals his true identity.  The child of Hebrew parents, raised by Pharaoh’s daughter, prophesied to return and lead the Hebrews to freedom, this information enrages Moses who refuses to believe it and leave.  This news finds its way back to Hegep.  Shortly after Moses returns to Memphis Seti dies and Ramesses becomes pharaoh, and Hegep arrives to inform him of a Hebrew spy in their midst.  Ramesses, unable to sentence the man he grew up with to death, in spite of the urges of his mother Queen Tuya (Sigourney Weaver), banishes Moses to the wilderness.  After wandering in the wilderness, and crossing the red sea Moses finds himself in Midian, where he finds Zipporah (María Valverde), the daughter of a goat herder, with whom he falls in love and marries.  Nine years pass and Moses is a husband and father, while Ramesses is an insecure and tyrannical pharaoh.  One night, during a storm Moses is injured in a rock side and comes face to face with a burning bush, and a young boy who challenged Moses to claim his people and lead them to freedom.  This drives Moses to return to Memphis and confront Ramesses to demand the freedom of the Hebrews.  With the help of Nun and Joshua (Aaron Paul) Moses begins training the Hebrew slaves to fight for their freedom.  When this does not produce the desired result, God decides to intervene and inflict ten plagues upon Egypt.

Moses is a well-formed and interesting character, but he is the only well formed an interesting character.  Each character in this film appears to exist in an entirely different world, from the ethnicity of the actors to the accents (or lack of) that each uses.  The effect of this is that it makes the film feel as though it was assembled from existing footage from unrelated films.  It is distracting, and undermines the entire film.  If the inconstancies in character were not enough to distract, the pacing of the narrative is similarly inconsistent, as if the film I saw was still in need of a good edit, or worse suffered an overly enthusiastic edit.

The better elements of the film were completely overshadowed by what appear to be careless filmmaking, which is far below the standard I would expect from a director such as Ridley Scott.  The interpretation of Moses is lost behind the spectacle of the plagues.  The performances of Ben Kingsley, Sigourney Weaver and Aaron Paul were virtually insignificant to the film as a whole, and the charisma they are capable of bringing to their roles was sorely needed.   Overall, the film was far too dry and inconsistent to be anything beyond a mildly interesting special effects disaster film.

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