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Wick's Review

Created Dec 17, 2014 11:25PM PST • Edited Apr 12, 2022 05:39PM PST

  1. Quality
  2. Really Great 4.5

    Why did Exodus – the ultimate big-screen Passover story – premiere right before the start of Hanukkah? Obtuse timing aside, Ridley Scott has wrought a magnificent Biblical epic in Gods and Kings, the best of the year, if not the millennium, and as thoughtful an action movie as you’ll ever experience. Holy Moses!

    This bravura recounting of the most bravura conflict between monotheism and polytheism is sociologically important. Why? We live in an effectively polytheistic age. The Bible competes for primary cultural influence with The Hobbit, Star Wars, The Hunger Games and other mythic fountainheads. The Force, it is.

    Thus many who see Exodus will judge it by their personal fantasy standards and favorite mythic universes. Most won’t have read the book. This is it, their only immersion into the mythic headwaters of monotheism.

    I have read the book and can’t say it’s better. Well scratch that, the Book of Exodus is better. Of course it is: deeper, authentic, albeit less visceral. Yes, the movie takes liberties with the story (See Reality Commentary below), but gets the essence right, with more than a few telling-details lighting the way. Amen to all that.

    The performances are more than acceptable, if not nearly legendary. The imagery, the ideas and the Biblical levels of conflict are what make Exodus: Gods and Kings uniquely impactful. Gifted the most powerful story ever told, Ridley Scott & four screenwriters made a blockbuster that’s relatable, thought-provoking and awe-inspiring. That may not be up there with parting the Red Sea, but it’s hardly chopped liver.

  3. Very Good 3.5

    Christian Bale as Moses: Bale gets the big moments right, but is characteristically wooden in 1-on-1 scenes. He’s an actor who can and has achieved greatness, just not consistently and with less than frenetic affect.

    Joel Edgerton as Ramesses II: The great Aussie looks vaguely ridiculous with his head shaved, but is otherwise plenty studly to be a fighting Pharaoh. Sigourney Weaver, as his mother the Queen, looks as if she’s already been embalmed.

    • Ben Kingsley as the Hebrew slave to whom the duty falls of informing a Prince of Egypt that he was born a Hebrew slave: tough conversation, well played by the great Kingsley.
    • Aaron Paul as Joshua: Fades into the scenery
    • Ben Mendelsohn as Hegep: Somewhere behind Joshua
    • MarĂ­a Valverde as Zipporah, Moses’ demanding wife
    • Andrew Tarbet as Aaron: Minimal impact. Pity.
    • Tara Fitzgerald as Miriam, Moses’ stalwart sister and the role model for countless Jewesses through the ages
    • John Turturro as Seti I, the previous Pharaoh: Turturro has no trouble playing oddities, which the elderly Pharaoh of Egypt surely was.
    • Indira Varma as a High Priestess who believes her own foolishness
  4. Male Stars Great 4.0
  5. Female Stars Good 3.0
  6. Female Costars Good 3.0
  7. Male Costars Great 4.0
  8. Really Great 4.5

    Working from the most powerful story ever told, Ridley Scott and four screenwriters didn’t screw it up, even though they did screw with it. Making a blockbuster has certain demands, after all. Fortunately they didn’t bastardize the story like Darren Aronofsky did with Noah earlier this year.

    Once we were slaves in Egypt.

    The film is most notable for its recreation of Egypt during the time of the Hebrew slaves, in which it sets a new benchmark. It shows the magnificence of Pharaoh’s Egypt, and its miserable slaves, the Hebrews.

    The Hebrews are shown as being intellectually very Jewish, a people who wrestle with God.

    Also notable is how Moses is drawn.

    • He spends much of the film as an action hero, a fighting-from-the-front General.
    • He’s also presented – plausibly – as a reluctant Jew, a cohort that is with us in frequent number yet today. However, Moses went reverse course from most Jews who reject their identity. They move away from Judaism. Moses grew up assimilated, then was confronted with his Hebrew identity as a grown man. Lots of dramatic tension there.
    • Moses our Teacher is also depicted embodying Jewish values, even before the Ten Commandments: monogamy, respect for the other, community orientation.
  9. Direction Great 4.0
  10. Play Really Great 4.5

    Working from the Book of Exodus, Adam Cooper, Bill Collage, Jeffrey Caine & Steven Zaillian wrote the screenplay.

  11. Music Really Great 4.5
  12. Visuals Perfect 5.0

    Wished I’d seen the 3D, but it was only showing at odd times.

    The visuals are stellar – recreating Ancient Egypt when it was the most powerful Kingdom in the world. This has been a great year for such ancient Mediterranean vistas, with Exodus even topping Hercules.

    Selected Visual Credits

    • 100 stunts
    • Thousands of visual and digital artists
  13. Content
  14. Risqué 1.9
  15. Sex Innocent 1.3
  16. Violence Brutal 2.6
  17. Rudeness Salty 1.8
  18. Supernatural 3.1

    Beware, Exodus: Gods and Kings deviates from the Torah in several notable instances:

    • Moses doesn’t call on Pharaoh between plagues.
    • Moses never says Let My People Go.
    • God takes human form, the ultimate Halakhic no-no.
    • Moses carves the tablets in God’s workroom, which I don’t recall being in the Torah.

    Finally, some sociological math: We were slaves for 400 years and wandered in the desert for 40 years.

    • Two generations of freedom cleansed 20 generations of slavery.
    • Each year of freedom apparently erased ten years of subjugation.

    That’s some serious ROI, very hard earned.

  19. Circumstantial Supernatural 3.6
  20. Biological Surreal 3.0
  21. Physical Surreal 2.7


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