I am a huge Ridley Scott fan. My list of favorite movies contain quite a few of his films: Alien, Blade Runner, Black Hawk Down and The Martian. When Ridley Scott is paired with a great script, the result is excellent. When he is paired with a mediocre script, the results is a great looking film that is only worth watching once to see the visuals. Exodus: Gods and Kings is in the latter category.
Exodus is billed as “the story of Moses”. I am not going to deal with the Biblical aspect of the movie – how it relates to the Book of Exodus, how things have changed from the Bible to the movie, etc. I am only looking at the film from the standpoint that it is a standalone story about a guy named Moses and his “brother” (Prince) Ramses. It is this bond of brotherhood that serves as the backbone to the drama in the film.
Moses is eventually exiled from Egypt, but comes back to free the his Hebrew people. The film shows the plagues that happen to Egypt. It depicts them (mostly) as realistically as they can. The film also shows the parting of the Red Sea, but again it makes it as realistic as possible – it looks like a tsunami pulled the water out. There’s some politics in there and a small love story. Scattered around are some battle scenes – as Moses is a General and warrior. What there wasn’t was enough story to justify the two and a half hour running time of the film.
The two lead actors turn in some great performances. Christian Bale plays Moses and is believable in his part – though he is deadly serious all the time in the film, why so serious? Joel Edgerton is rather menacing as Ramses, but is very good in the part. His progression of jealousy is well-played early on in the film.
What this film should be seen (at least once) for are the visuals. The cinematography by Dariusz Wolski is jaw-dropping gorgeous – from the wide shots of Egypt to the expansive shots of the desert to the shots of the sandy beach, Wolski’s eye for catching the extraordinary in each shot is amazing. The product design by Arthur Max compliments Wolski’s cinematography. And the special effects to bring to life the plagues and also the parting of the Red Sea (amongst other things like the battle sequences) have to be seen to be believed. They are truly outstanding and very well-integrated into the film.
All of the visuals can only get a film so far though. Without a good script to backup the visuals, a film cannot excel. And the script is, in the simplest sense, quite boring. It took me two sittings to finish Exodus and I almost fell asleep a few times. That is quite a feat as I have sat through many boring films before. There just is not much energy to the film, even when there are action scenes.
Exodus: Gods and Kings, I wish it were a better film, but it’s not. Worth seeing once? Yes. Added to my list of favorite Ridley Scott films? No.