This latest epic by director Ridley Scott is full of amazing photography, sweeping scenery, and terrifying special effects. The battle between the Hittites and Egyptians in the early part of the film, is quite realistic and helps to set the stage for the later division between Ramses (Joel Edgerton) and Moses (Christian Bale). The Pharaoh’s son and nephew, respectively, have been raised together and are both trusted advisors. Just before the battle, though, the Pharaoh’s soothsayer says that “a leader will be saved and his saviour will become a leader”. During the battle, Moses saves Ramses’ life, and this becomes the start of dissension between them. When Ramses is asked by his father (Pharaoh played by John Turturro) to go and see that the Viceroy is keeping the building of tombs and monuments on track, he balks and Moses goes in his place, hence setting the scene for his discovery of his true roots and the vicious treatment of his people.
The sets are absolutely stunning. The slave town where the tombs and monuments are being built and the palace the thieving Viceroy has built for himself are, out of necessity, on a grand scale. The Pharaoh’s palace and surrounding city and the desert settings shot in Spain and the Canary Islands are beautiful. You can get an excellent sneak preview in this trailer:
The costumes are well-researched and the jewellry design are amazing reproductions. There is some fine acting from the lead players and it would have been nice to see larger parts for Ben Kingsley (Nun) and Andrew Tarbet (Aaron).
What you shouldn’t expect to get is a Biblical representation of the story. There are no face-to-face competitions between Moses and the Pharaoh’s sorcerers or magicians. No demands to “Let my people go, or else . . .” Instead of a staff, Moses carries a sword and trains a small Hebrew army in disruptive tactics. The miracles are more humanly explainable, for instance, the Nile turns red from blood as giant crocodiles attack Egyptians on the river. There is no holding up of a staff to part the Red Sea; it kind of drains away slowly overnight, and then returns like a huge tsunami (rather reminiscent of the huge waves on the first planet Ranger lands on in Interstellar) bashing both Ramses and Moses around while the rest of the Egyptian army is destroyed. And, not content to have God represented by a disembodied voice behind a burning bush, Scott has elected to use an 11-year-old boy (Isaac Andrews), who sometimes seems vengeful and petulant, and who can only be seen by Moses.
While this rendering of the story of Exodus isn’t quite as long as Cecil B. DeMille‘s version, the latter had an intermission. The story moves along, though, and I didn’t find it too long. I was a bit disappointed as it was supposed to be the 3-D version being shown but the theatre was having “trouble with some of the features” and showed the 2-D version, refunding $3. after the movie. So I can’t comment on how the 3-D looked.
Definitely a movie worth seeing despite some of the departures from the written version and some of the more controversial “casting” decisions. The movie has received a lot of criticism, but I think some people just like to show how cleverly they can tear something apart. It is PG-13 as there are some rather gory and/or violent scenes and intense images. * * * *