Saturday, December 13, 2014

Exodus: Gods and Kings

It seems the past few years we have had a small shift in the film industry. This shift has been slowly leading to more religious and spiritual films. We have had both sides of the spectrum with the very religious like God's Not Dead and we have had loose biblical interpretations with Alfonso Cuaron's Noah. I find myself on a fence with these films because I am both a film critic and a Christian. I try to be open minded to the film content even if I don't agree with it from a religious perspective. I am telling you this because I tried very hard to go into Exodus: Gods and Kings with an open mind.

Let us begin with a wonderful Ridley Scott. When I hear the name Ridley Scott I think of everything from Alien to Legend to Prometheus to Gladiator. I know his film style, I know the epic scale of his films and I know his respect for the Christian faith. Exodus fits into all these things. Be warned that I am about to give away spoilers of the movie. I'm guessing that several people may have read The Book.

The movie starts with Moses (played by Christian Bale) and Ramses (played by Joel Edgerton) going to battle as men. We see how close they are and we see the special bond they share. We also see the close bond that Moses has with Seti, Ramses' father. Later, Moses meets with Hebrew leaders to see the state of the slaves. He meets Joshua, played by Aaron Paul and Nun, played by Ben Kingsley. They tell Moses that he is not a prince of Egypt but a slave that was sent down the river in a basket. His mother is not his mother and his nanny, Miriam, is actually his sister. In a fit of rage Moses leaves and kills two guards that mistake him for a slave. Later Ramses is made Pharaoh and finds out about Moses story. Moses, his mother and Miriam are all  banished and sent in different directions. 

Moses wanders in the dessert then finds a village. A little while later he gets married, has a kid and then sees God. He flees to Egypt where the plagues follow and the story continues. I won't get into much more. From that point it follows the book of Exodus very well. Now to the review portion of this blog. 

Let me start with the things I was disappointed and then jump into the things I loved. The one heads up I will give you is that it is long. A running total of 150 minutes and we could do with about 15 minutes off of it. There are several scenes that Ridley added in that I didn't feel added much to the film. There is a whole 15 minutes where Moses trains the Hebrews in combat and it really never leads anywhere.

Personally, Moses story is my favorite in the entire Bible. (Oops Sorry J.C. you're story is great and I literally wouldn't be here without you) Moses is the character that I relate to in the Bible. His story has pulled at my heart since I was a child. My favorite part of the story is when Moses sees the burning bush and hears God. Ridley did a VERY BAD interpretation of this. Basically, God comes in the form of a child after Moses is hit on the head. There is nothing about removing his shoes because the land he is on is holy ground. There is nothing about Moses taking the staff and there is nothing about God telling Moses that he will be with him. It is a kid telling Moses that he has to go back to Egypt and see what is happening. I mean where is the connection that God shows Moses? I didn't believe that Moses would be willing to leave his family after such a simple vision. God was suppose to speak to Moses in a way that touched his heart. I was disappointed that Ridley didn't follow the biblical text. 

After the burning bush scene I was very worried about how the rest of the story would go. To his credit, Ridley did a great job with the rest. I really enjoyed the way he portrayed the plagues and the havoc they caused in Egypt. I loved the large scale of water to blood, frogs, and hail. The final plague, when death comes for the first born was haunting. As the darkness spreads we see the life get sucked out of the first born. We hear the screams of Egypt and we see Moses completed distraught over it.

Christian Bale did a wonderful job in his portrayal of Moses. I believed he was raised a prince of Egypt. I could feel his inner turmoil about being a Hebrew or being an Egyptian. There was also wonderfully human in the way he interacted with God. In the film, God comes to Moses as a young slave boy. There are wonderful times with Moses shows he is a true Israelite. The translation of Israelite is one who wrestles with God, Moses certainly does that. He struggles with having faith at all and he struggles with the pain he is bringing to Egypt. The Egyptians were his people and the city was his home. Now he must stand aside and watch as the innocent suffer because of Ramses' anger and stubbornness. There is a fantastic moment where God looks at Moses and tells him to step aside because he will show Ramses his true power. Bale did a stupendous job showing that personal pain must come second to the greater needs of others. He knew that the Israelite needed to be free and that he could free them with God's help. 

The other actors in the movie did a fine job. Sigourney Weaver seemed a little out of place as Ramses' mother but she was hardly in it, so I'll let that pass. John Turturro was an interesting choice for Seti. He made him compassionate and a loving father figure to Moses. Turturro was a quiet but important presence in the movie. Aaron Paul was the character I would have liked to see more with. He portrayed Joshua and brought an intense soul to the character. He is filled with rebellion and anger towards the Egyptians, yet in the face of God, he knees and fears God's power. I wanted so much more of Joshua's story. We hardly get to see him and once we see him as a God fearing man, the movie is over. I think it was a total waste of wonderful potential talent.  Joel Edgerton as Ramses was good. I say good because he was very one mood for almost the entire movie. The mood was a mix of arrogance, jealousy, and self fulfillment. He seems to always be jealous of Moses, even from the beginning. Moses is completely devoted to Ramses but Ramses see him as someone the people love more. There are some wonderful scene with Ramses and his son. We see that he could be a loving father and we know that is what will drive him to the edge. 

All in all it was a very good portrayal of the story of Moses. Ridley did a pretty good job of sticking to the Bible and not straying too far from the text. He made the plagues and miracles believable without making them too over the top. Yes, it is a little on the long side but we expect that from Ridley. Was it as good as Gladiator? Sadly, it was not on a Gladiator scale but it was must better than Noah. Is it worth seeing, I would say yes if you are a Moses fan like I am.