Christian Bale takes on the role of Moses, who is banished from his former home and position as General to the Pharaoh Rhamses (Joel Egderton) upon learning of his Hebrew roots. Embracing his newfound culture, Moses then takes it upon himself to rise up against this abhorrent tyrant, inspiring hundreds of thousands of slaves to undertake a gargantuan evacuation, leading them on the path to freedom, and away from oppression – and the unremitting cycle of lethal plagues.
From a visual perspective, Scott has created a picture that, at times, can take your breath away. The vast, unforgiving landscapes and the hoards of people makes for a picture that survives, predominantly, on its scope and scale, with the battle sequences in particular, enriched by the immensity of it all. However at the very core of this tale is a human being – an empathetic, compassionate protagonist who suffers so tremendously. There are some fascinating themes at play, such as Moses’ loss of identity, to suddenly discover he is not who he thought he was. Yet we never truly explore nor study these elements, and within this wide open narrative with so many facets, we end up neglecting the more personal, nuanced subtleties.
Working with a screenplay co-written by Steven Zaillian (Schindler’s List) and Jeffrey Caine (Goldeneye) amongst others, you would hope actors such as Bale would be blessed with fascinating characters, and yet instead this just feels somewhat wasted. There is even a handful of actors who play such small, insignificant roles you can barely understand why they signed up to the project – such as Aaron Paul, Sigourney Weaver and Sir Ben Kingsley. That being said, there is a sense of intrigue in regards to the principal rivalry between Moses and Rhamses, in what is a complex, unconventional relationship that has layers of hatred and resentment, and yet almost a feeling of respect, born out of their past friendship. In many ways however this sets up Rhamses as an even more fearful antagonist, as to make up for any internal conflict, he can become even more barbaric to prove a point.
Though there is a lot to be admired about Exodus: Gods and Kings, given it’s a huge budget blockbuster with such an accomplished director at the helm, and a stellar cast to boot, it’s difficult to not leaving feeling somewhat underwhelmed.