UMP Review – Exodus: Gods and Kings

Ridley Scott’s epic bible story drowns in extensive CGI and panache, leaving few space for good acting – all in all, a mediocre tale.

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Last Ridley Scott’s features – “The Counselor” and “Prometheus” – have significantly shaken my belief, that he is truly a master of elan, that once used to be a powerful tool in his hands – recall “The Gladiator” or “Black hawk Down”. Nevertheless, when the first news announcing his biblical epos aired, I gave a little cheer inside. And although “Exodus: Gods and Kings” is a long shot from Scott’s finest, it definitely brings some fantastic cinematography and the panache, which I kind of missed. 

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“Exodus” follows the story of Moses (Christian Bale), the biblical leader of Hebrews and Ramesses, the son of the Egyptian pharaoh – although raised as brothers, when Ramesses becomes the king of Egypt, Moses is exiled. When he finds a way to settle far from the pharaoh’s eyesight, Moses is chosen by the God to become the leader of the oppressed nation. Ramesses the Great does not agree to let the Hebrews free, which leads to the fight not only with Moses, but also the Jewish god.

Scott knows how to deal with panache – “Exodus” gets more epic with every perfectly directed shot coming, bursting out with some remarkable cast and Gladiator-influenced music. Ridley Scott’s Egypt lives on its own, being created with great care about the details, lets us sunk into this visually astonishing story all the way. This technical side of “Exodus” is definitely breathtaking, but seems to be a sort of a camouflage for the lack of some deeper and wiser interpretation of the biblical story. Although Christian Bale managed to turn this flat, only symbolical Moses into a human being, torn apart between his heaven-sent mission and his devotion to family, the rest of the cast is quite off the track. Joel Edgerton struggles to find his own interpretation of Ramesses for the entire movie, John Turturro is a flop in the cast and the only character, which steals the show every time he appears is Hegep – sarcastically portrayed by Ben Mendelsohn.

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Scott avoids a strident, catholic indoctrination, trying to remain on the neutral ground. Although one may claim, that Moses’ discussions with God are a resemblance of schizophrenia (some theories nowadays do suggest that), there is the biblical symbolism, portrayed with accordance to the holy book. Scott’s feature is not addressed to the ardent catholics – it’s more like a far cousin of “Gladiator”, with epic battles and human rivalry at the front, backed up by the biblical events. If it happens that Scott criticizes the God’s cruelty, like the deaths of firstborn, the script quickly turns to the action again, omitting any moral dialogue. At least, he is consistent – “Exodus: Gods and Kings” is supposed to be a visually mindblowing show.

There is also the case of the soundtrack, which, frankly, did not capture my attention at all. Although Alberto Iglesias did some good job, the problem might be trailer music, which kind of set the mood “what to expect” – a brilliant cover by Sydney Wayser was a great choice. Unfortunately, the movie soundtrack is quite lacklustre, rather intermingling with the picture, than extracting its features, being disappointing and shallow.

Ridley Scott did not say the last word, although his latest film is still far from directorial peak of his career. “Exodus: Gods and Kings” is a spectacle with some remarkable actors participating, directed with Scott’s famous panache. Dariusz Wolski’s cinematography is probably the most convincing argument in favor of “Exodus: Gods and Kings”, and for that reason solely, you should give it a shot. All in all, it is Ridley Scott, ladies and gentlemen – this guy could make something epic out of everything.

 

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