Movie Review: Exodus Gods and Kings

When the biblical story of the Exodus was first brought to the big screen, DreamWorks spent a whopping $70 million to animate the story of the former Prince of Egypt. 10 years later, we see Ridley Scott’s retelling of the same biblical epic. It rakes in a production cost of $140 million, double of the animated production, which can be an indicator of cinematic excellence, or divine coincidence.


We are thrust into a heroic fight between the irreverent Moses (Christian Bale) and his titular brother Rameses II (Joel Edgerton) within the first 15 minutes. In the battle, Moses fulfills an alarming prophecy that seems increasingly foreboding after his encounter with the slave elder Nun (Ben Kingsley), who tells him of his Hebrew heritage. From there, the story enters full swing as Moses is evicted from paradise by Rameses and cursed to wander the wilderness till God calls him home to free his people.


With a runtime of 150 minutes, one would expect Exodus to have action-packed scenes, drama and pathos. The sad truth is that a lot of scenes seemed rushed and even underdeveloped. In a scene, Bale manages to miraculously charm the exotic country beauty, Zipporah (María Valverde) , fall in love and get married all in the space of 2 days. This lack of of clear transition within the characters’ arcs is a major disbelief considering the richness of characters in the Old Testament.


The shoddy scriptwriting doesn’t utilize the supporting characters, whose potential was utterly wasted in the long run. Characters like Moses’s brother Aaron (Andrew Tarbet) and Joshua (Aaron Paul) were hurriedly introduced in passing and seemed to play no greater role than Moses’s trusty sidekicks only in times of need. The only character that seems to have any fun on screen is Ben Mendelsohn, who plays the politically-corrupt and power-hungry viceroy Hegep.


Even the lead role of Rameses isn’t spared, with Edgerton’s portrayal of the lead character more of a spoilt prince than a ruthless dictator. It’s clear the screenwriters wanted to place Rameses in a more empathetic light, but his ‘mood swings’ ultimately made us more indifferent than sympathetic to his plight.

Exodus’s saving grace comes in the form of Bale’s Moses, a human savior worth rallying behind. Through the film, we see the character grow from prince to vagabond, and to husband before finally becoming the instrument of God. The emotional gravitas of Bale’s performance shines most in his moments of self-doubt. His dialogue with God (Isaac Andrews), questioning nature and occasional defiance, is reminiscent of our human nature when approaching any religion.

Bale described his character as insecure and even schizophrenic at times, emotions that he etched into his weathered face and increasingly long beard as the show progressed.


Aesthetically speaking, Exodus is a visual spectacle that harnessed the cinematic grandeur of massive sets and impressive computer-generated images. Director Scott, who has long been hailed as one of the best cinematic-world builders (see Prometheus), pulled out all the stops here with the culmination of God’s wrath in the 10 plagues of Egypt.

From the relentless onslaught of hail on the golden city of Memphis to the bloodied glory of the lifeless Nile, these breathtaking scenes of righteous vengeance will certainly strike the fear of God in any member of the audience.

Exodus: Gods and Kings tries its very best to give an honest recount of the biblical epic and does so with much pizzazz, though the greater part of its potential lies lost at the bottom of the (red) sea.

Rating: 3 out of 5


Release Date: 11 December 2014

Runtime: 150 minutes

Language: English

Censorship rating: PG13

Genre: Action, Drama.

Director: Ridley Scott

Main Actors: Christian Bale, Aaron Paul, Indira Varma, Sigourney Weaver, Joel Edgerton

Photo Credits: 20th Century Fox Films