Exodus: Gods and Kings

Exodus: Gods and Kings ★★★

So yes, I can readily admit this film has a lot of problems, casting a bunch of white European actors as Egyptians chief among them. I know the Hollywood of yore used to roll like that and this film is clearly channeling the spirit of the old Cheston biblical epics. But people were already confronting how dated and insensitive this approach was in 2014 when this dropped and a scant 5 years later this film feels a hundred years old in regards to its cultural sensitivity.

Another problem the film suffers from is a diffuse narrative, where every scene feels disconnected from the ones around it. The flow is disjointed, the story feels dazed and inert, lifeless. The script probably could have used a few more passes to clarify some relationships and solidify the connective tissue in others. 

For example, in one scene Bale meets a woman at a watering hole, the next scene he’s staring at her while she weaves some fabric, the next scene they’re getting married. This series of events literally takes place over about 2 minutes of screen time. It makes you feel like entire sections have been hacked out, which adversely affects the film’s ability to land its emotional beats. It all feels like just a bunch of stuff that happened as opposed to a massive tale of biblical proportions. This is the kind of movie where a scene fades in with a title card that says, “9 Years Later” and you’re sitting there like, “um....what? Ok, I guess.”

So why do I give it 3 stars and a like? It’s just soooooo gorgeously made and visually impressive to behold. The costumes had me buzzed on the production design within minutes, I got hammered on the cinematography and I was still trying to sober up by the parting of the Red Sea. I watched this movie through the auteur equivalent of beer goggles. My friends pulled me aside and tried to point out the listless pacing and problematic casting and I pushed them away, grunting about how I was taking that Dariusz Wolski cinematography home with me. 

I watched this alone and sober, but you get the strained metaphor I hope. 

Plus, despite the character’s decisions seeming unmotivated and baffling, Bale and Edgerton are quite good. Bale looks fucking awesome in this movie. I just want to curl up in his mustache and die. It was pretty funny watching his hair and beard length change in every single scene after he’s exiled from Egypt. The image of him removing his hood to unveil a hairdo wholly at odds with the one he sported a minute and a half earlier really is comical, like a high concept piece of SNL comedy befitting a digital short. 

Edgerton is the best performance in this though, his character the only one approaching anything resembling consistency. His physique and striking blue eyes really pop off the screen set in his Brynner-esque bald dome and heavy guy liner. He looks amazing and imbues Rameses with an impressive amount of pathos for being so underwritten. He’s an actor I’ve grown to think quite a bit of over the years. 

So yeah, Exodus: Gods and Kings is a sprawling, snoring mess of a film. But it looks and sounds so goddamn good, it’s easy to just tune out intellectually and emotionally and be dazzled by the craft on display. I blind bought this 4K after being so amazed by Gladiator. This is no Gladiator. But it does looks almost as good. Can’t wait for more Ridley to hit the format and definitely need to double dip on Prometheus now, because Wolski’s cinematography on the format is THE TRUTH.

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