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article imageReview: ‘Exodus: Gods and Kings’ fits best with other epic war pictures Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Dec 15, 2014 in Entertainment
‘Exodus: Gods and Kings’ is Ridley Scott’s spectacular re-telling of the Biblical story about Moses and the Israelites’ emancipation, starring Christian Bale.
For obvious reasons, it's always been popular to release movie adaptations of Bible stories near Christmas. That doesn't mean the films are full of warm fuzzies though. More recent history has shown a trend of increasing violence and bloodshed previously less prevalent in similar stories. In Exodus: Gods and Kings, director Ridley Scott not only enhances the brutality but utilizes all that special effects can offer.
Raised alongside the Pharaoh’s (John Turturro) own son, Ramses (Joel Edgerton), Moses (Christian Bale) was afforded every privilege of a prince, including authority over the entire population of tens of thousands of Israelite slaves. However when it’s discovered Moses was actually adopted, having been saved from execution by his Jewish parents, he is disavowed. Forced into exile, Moses settles down as a shepherd and starts a family — until he is called upon by God to liberate “his people.” He uses his skills as a general to train the Jews to fight back and God unleashes the ten Plagues of Egypt when Moses’ efforts are ineffective. Their emancipation is followed by a long journey through the desert towards Canaan with the Pharaoh and his troops in pursuit.
Most viewers are familiar with Cecil B. DeMille’s The Ten Commandments (1956) starring Charlton Heston as Moses, which accomplished quite a bit in terms of special effects for the time period. It also presented a more complete account of Moses’ life, beginning with his rescue as a baby versus this film’s opening in his adulthood. However the overall foundation of the story remains the same, even if the presentation is significantly altered. One of the more interesting changes shows a man trying to provide scientific explanations for the plagues affecting Egypt, as well as an argument that Moses only imagined speaking to God after being knocked unconscious.
Under Scott’s direction, there is a major shift in focus to the violence of the story; even the plagues seem more vicious in this context. The emphasis is no longer God’s power and omniscience, but the fear He can and should inspire. Moreover, the quality of the special effects contributes to the more visceral nature of the narrative. Not only does it bring home the vastness of the armies and the exodus, but also the pervasiveness and harshness of the epidemics; particularly the frog invasion and swarm of locusts. One of the final spectacles is the return of the Red Sea, which is visually quite impressive.
Each of the top-billed actors, which also include Sir Ben Kingsley and Sigourney Weaver, are very sombre. The seemingly constant life-or-death state of existence makes for very grim performances. There has been some valid criticism regarding the casting of a primarily Caucasian cast to portray non-white characters, though this inaccuracy does not influence the assessment of their generally adequate performances.
Director: Ridley Scott
Starring: Christian Bale, Joel Edgerton and Ben Kingsley
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