Exodus: Gods and Kings
Directed by Ridley Scott
Opens December 12
Who knew Sir Ridley had a goofy biblical spectacular in him? The mega-budgeted Exodus: Gods and Kings elicits plenty of (unintentional?) giggles at the start with the casting of John Turturro as a Hebrew-killing pharaoh. But this is actually the rather dynamic and very handsomely mounted tale of the rivalry between the despotic ruler’s son Rhamses (guylined and bronzed-all-over Joel Edgerton) and Moses (charismatic Christian Bale), an adopted child of Egyptian royalty with a most prophetic destiny. Moses supposes (erroneously) that his loyalties lie with the sovereignty. In truth, he is the divinity-dictated leader of the many Judaic slaves (a squandered Aaron Paul and Ben Kingsley among them) longing to resettle in Canaan across the Red Sea.
If you know your Torah and your Bible you know the basics: Rhamses banishes Moses upon discovering his hidden heritage. Moses flees and marries, confers with God (perfectly played by young Isaac Andrews as a spoiled bully child), and returns to Egypt to demand his people be let go. Plagues descend, which give Sir Ridley and cinematographer Dariusz Wolski a chance to flex their expansive visual muscles. Among the more potent visions are the blood-red Nile, the crimson color of which is aided along by ravenous crocodiles, and a landscape-engulfing shadow (shades of Independence Day minus the UFO armada) that takes the life of every firstborn Egyptian child.
And what of that ocean that gets parted? It’s there that Sir Ridley is really in his element, orchestrating a massive chase and battle scene backgrounded by tempestuous tornadoes and tidal waves. It’s a bloody gorgeous bit of comic-book pageantry that reaches an apex when Moses and Rhamses throw Sergio Leone-like shade at each other while a tsunami swells on the horizon. Really, like much of the movie, it’s laughable in the best way—completely, committedly, and earnestly batshit, which also extends to the manner in which the film glancingly passes over such a dyed-in-the-wool iconic moment as the Fifteen (I mean Ten!) Commandments. This is myth of a more propulsive sort, rarely lingering, always moving—a migration in perpetuum that yields the silliest of grins.