Ridley Scott returned to the world of historical interpretations late last year to deliver a dramatic retelling of the epic story of Moses. Exodus: Gods and Kings features Christian Bale in the lead role, bringing more depth to one of the Bible’s most renowned characters than ever before, with Bale’s perfect delivery of lines and his familiarity with playing such torn and divided characters in films only adding to his compelling performance.
Joel Edgerton as Ramses is the real surprise in this film however, as Edgerton portrays the character as more of a power mad and scorned Pharaoh of Egypt, determined not to submit to his friend turned enemy who fights to have his people set free through guerrilla style warfare and a divine power behind them. The film sees Edgerton given the chance to try his hand in a leading role in a huge blockbuster film and he does not squander his opportunity. Instead we see him come into his own in a more villainous role than his past work has allowed, revealing his talent as an actor suited to various roles in cinema.
As befits a director of such fame and prestige, Scott wisely uses his budget to create a visually remarkable film, most notably displaying the ten plagues of Egypt in an extremely entertaining and convincing way, whilst the film also takes time to develop the viewpoint of the Egyptian people and the suffering they went through over the decisions of a stubborn Pharaoh.
Similar to Noah in 2014, Exodus: Gods and Kings conveys a very ambiguous tone whenever the subject of God is approached, with scenes such as Aaron Paul’s character Joshua, covertly watching Moses seemingly talking to himself, when the audience knows him to be talking to the film’s representation of God (portrayed as a young boy.) This causes the film to question the influence rather than the existence of God in the story, with the film’s emphasis being focused on God’s choice of Moses as a leader and saviour to the Hebrew people and only using his power to damage Ramses’ pride and force him to listen to Moses.
This is where the film makes use of such an interesting story, by stressing the conflict between two men who cannot forget that they once knew each other as brothers and also in the struggles that both men are shown to face. Moses must observe the suffering of innocents, both Hebrew and Egyptians, whereas Ramses must come to terms with his own legacy and what he believes to be the future and good will of his own people, and the film does well to demonstrate this through strong, confident writing and vivid character development throughout the entire film.
Childhood fans of the animated Dreamworks film The Prince of Egypt will find some enjoyment in watching Exodus: Gods and Kings and understanding it as an evolution of that film and its themes, messages and tone, better appreciated by a now more mature audience. Similar to The Prince of Egypt, Exodus: Gods and Kings also attracts a strong cast, with the likes of Ben Kingsley and Sigourney Weaver adding their legendary talents to the film.
Ignoring any similarities and comparisons with Scott’s other historical epic Gladiator, it is easy to invest yourself in Exodus: Gods and Kings as an interesting mix of a historical action film (as seen through a superbly shot opening battle scene) and a thoughtful, Biblical epic that isn’t as forceful in its ideals as might be originally thought.
Dylan Clements, Film writer at Seroword