Exodus: Gods and Kings


Ridley Scott's Exodus: Gods and Kings is a long movie that does little. Because this umpteenth retelling of the battle between Pharaoh Ramses II (Joel Edgerton) and his adopted brother Moses (Christian Bale) is such a familiar tale, Scott needed much more than a few new  tricks -- in exposition AND execution -- to make the film worth its nearly 2 and half hours. Although the picture is pretty (how could it not be?) and the recreation of the plagues on Egypt is thrilling, I was frustrated and peeved that the story was so thin, the personal intrigues vaporous and talent wasted unchartable. It's been a while since so many people gave so much for so little. Biblical epics often resort to "proverbial" dialogue -- that rarefied cadence and text in which the characters talk in aphorisms and inscriptions. It was pure camp when DeMille staged it in The Ten Commandments. But not so much here. The script is not so much about art-speak as it is about shadowy nods (Ben Kingsley as Nun), knowing glances (Aaron Paul as Joshua) and fiery interjections (Sigourney Weaver and nearly every other credited actor in the cast). That's the main problem for me, I fear. In this age, big pictures are relying less on denseness of story or richness of character than on an unending parade of cinematic acrobatics and magic -- in this case, repulsive flies and frogs, boils and bugs. And that's a shame. The movies that linger longest with me touch my heart; they don't trigger my gag reflex. I have to hand it to Scott though. It took real stones to cast God's heavenly messenger Malak as a petulant 10-year-old boy. I would say "Good show, Sir Ridley!" but it's not really.

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