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DVD: Exodus: Gods and Kings | reviews, news & interviews

DVD: Exodus: Gods and Kings

DVD: Exodus: Gods and Kings

Ridley Scott's Biblical epic is dourly, intelligently ambitious

Let my people go, or else: Moses (Christian Bale) as warrior-prophet

Ridley Scott’s Biblical epic is dark in every way; couched in shadows, even before the hand of God rolls blackness over Egypt as He slays its first-born. Christian Bale’s Moses is indeed baleful, typically for this often wearisome star, a brooding, barking warrior-prophet. And the Old Testament’s huge capacity for slaughter is rightly seen by Pharaoh Ramesses (Joel Edgerton) as a contest to find whose deity is “better at killing”. It’s a long way from Chuck Heston, as Scott attempts a realist religious film, except when God speaks to Moses in the form of a sinister, petulant child with more than a touch of The Exorcist. No wonder the massive US Christian market left it to flop in cinemas there. Scott makes much of his own visions in his not-notably humble director’s commentary. This is a grim and dogged one.

Moses’s post-bullrush youth in the Egyptian court allows a Ben-Hur-style tale of rivalry between himself and Ramesses (with Edgerton’s capricious, secretly weak Pharaoh, pictured right, the more intriguing). This becomes open conflict when Ben Kingsley’s Hebrew elder reveals Moses’s own membership of Egypt’s slave race. Scott’s interest in the culture and costumes in Egypt’s empire gives colour to Moses’s exile. His military expertise, not mentioned in The Book of Exodus, but first seen when he and Ramesses command a spectacular assault on the Hittites, turns to Jewish guerrilla warfare against the Egyptian state, nodding to previous Scott sword-and-sandal epics Gladiator and Kingdom of Heaven. Then God takes over.

The plagues are scientifically rationalised by Ewen Bremner’s courtier, and Scott sticks to the possible in depicting these deadly signs and wonders, right up to the parting of the Red Sea by a tsunami. As with the reddening of the Nile with blood from an attack of thrashing, cannibal giant crocodiles, such startling spectacle is Scott in his real element.

As well as Scott and co-screenwriter Jeffrey Caine’s commentaries, extras include deleted scenes where Sigourney Weaver actually gets some lines, which only hint at the four-hour version the director pined to release. This intelligent, dour epic might benefit from such excess. 

The reddening of the Nile with blood from thrashing, cannibal giant crocodiles is Scott in his real element

rating

Editor Rating: 
3
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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