Here we have everything that is wrong with the Hollywood machine. A once revered director, some Oscar winners and “current” actors and a script that – judging from the credits – has done more rounds than Mike Tyson. It’s a studio executive’s dream package; “Oh how the money comes rolling in!” And in fairness, a quick glance at Box Office Mojo reveals Exodus: Gods and Kings has currently (Jan 6th 2015) taken $202.8m globally. Nothing to be sniffed at, but with an estimated $140m production budget, that box office gross isn’t really going to cover all the costs associated with a tent-pole release like this. So, where to start? Well, here’s what’s right with Exodus (I’m not writing the full title every time) – it looks fantastic! And why shouldn’t it? It’s a Ridley Scott film and he clearly likes working with Dariusz Wolski who’s been his Director of Photography on his previous 2 films. There’s a heightened contrast and slightly desaturated look that I like but unfortunately that’s where the good stuff ends.
This utterly straightforward retelling of the story of Moses did not engage me on any level. I find it interesting that with an opportunity like this we are given a by-the-numbers narrative, albeit with an attempt at logical explanations for the more “miraculous” happenings. Contrast this with Darren Aronofsky‘s Noah and it is definitely an opportunity missed; I would suggest this may be attributable to a contrast of styles. Mr. Scott has never been a director open to the interpretive nature of storytelling. I am in no way a religious person, but was utterly compelled by Noah. Ok, it may have been a bit “preachy” in places, but its visual style and narrative structure captivated me for most of its 138 minute running time. But oh dear, here’s 150 minutes of my life I’m never getting back.
As for the cast, well, if you wondered what “dialling in a performance” really looks like, step forward Joel Edgerton; and I’ve no axe to grind here. Prior to Exodus, I’ve enjoyed watching Mr. Edgerton in Zero Dark Thirty and Warrior to name but two. Sigourney Weaver‘s blink-and-you’ll-miss-it contribution begs the question “why bother casting her?” while Aaron Paul has a little more screen time but no lines to get his teeth into. The same goes for Ben Kingsley. One can’t help but wonder how much of their parts ended on the cutting room floor. Exodus is Christian Bale‘s party and he does his best with an utterly uninspiring script, but even his performance starts to go off the rails around 100 minutes in as his “accent” swings hither-and-thither. It’s a wholly disappointing affair and another failure for Mr. Scott. He’s really been struggling for a bona-fide hit since Gladiator revived the “swords-and-sandels” epics from yesteryear. Exodus won’t be that hit, even with its own swords-and-sandels.
Thank you for reading 🙂