Set a couple of hundred years after Darren Aronofsky’s Noah, Exodus follows Moses, the adoptive son of the Pharaoh of Egypt, where the Jews are enslaved. But Moses has an awakening, realises he’s a Jew, and under the command of God leads the Hebrews he was previously happy to enslave, out of Egypt.
With Scott favourite Russell Crowe obviously unable to play both Noah and Moses in 12 months, Scott looks elsewhere, to the usually brilliant Christian Bale, for his leading man. Unfortunately this is Bale’s worst performance with a shaky accent and as much emotion as a stone tablet. Charlton Heston he is not.
Just about everyone in this film is miscast- so keen was Ridley to not cast ‘Mohammad so-and-so from such-and-such‘ that he took any available actor so long as skin was beige or lighter. It’s less authentic than Michael Jackson’s video for Remember the Time, and that has a guy doing the robot. The blue-eyed brothers Ramses and Moses couldn’t look less Egyptitian if they stopped walking sideways.
Sigourney Weaver looks particularly out of place in Egyptian get-up during her very brief scenes. Maybe there should be a new commandment: thou shalt not cast white actors as Egyptians. What is this? Gods of Egypt? It couldn’t be less authentic if Moses cut off the Egyptians’ wifi.
The magic in this film is better-dealt-with than in Noah. The obvious difficulties in representing a widely-believed work of fantasy onscreen remain, but are handled in a slightly more plausible way. In Noah huge changes were made to the story (see the stone giants that build the ark) which didn’t go any way to plugging the myriad plot holes.
Here God is accurately portrayed as the ‘mean child on an anthill’ of the Old Testament, appearing as an actual child. I guess you just can’t get away with a booming voice in the sky anymore. In one particularly bizarre scene, Moses communicates with God while encased in mud, with only his face peering out, testing Bale’s acting, and the audience’s ability to refrain from laughing, to their very limits.
With Moses trying to distance himself from many of the plagues and openly disagreeing with God, it brings a degree of moral ambiguity to the unflinching and zealous Moses of scripture, which at least gives it slightly more interest than Noah. However, it suffers from excessive length and from being deadeningly dull, proving once again that epics like Ben-Hur and The Ten Commandments simply can’t be made now. I don’t know on which day Ridley Scott thought this would be a good idea, but I wish it had been the Sabbath so he’d rested instead.