Exodus: Gods and Kings (4 stars)

Exodus: Gods and Kings

Revisionist, highly entertaining biblical epic from Ridley Scott, starring Christian Bale

Trust Ridley Scott to give us a bold, revisionist take on the foundation story of three major world religions. Like his gritty Robin Hood his version of the epic Old Testament adventure sheds some time-honoured elements for an earnest stab at realism that agnostics can swallow as well as the religious. And his inimitable way with bravura spectacle — complete with gasp-inducing production design — still delivers cracking battles, miracles and wonders.

Swords clash, God speaks and plagues rain down but at heart this is a battle of wills between Christian Bale’s intense, committed Moses and Joel Edgerton’s insecure, increasingly unhinged Pharaoh. Ramses is all bitter and twisted from his lifelong rivalry with adopted sibling Moses; it's a ‘Dad liked you best’ dynamic, fuelled by John Turturro’s shrewd Pharaoh Seti and amped up by fierce (and sumptuously costumed) mother Sigourney Weaver’s ambition, along with a troubling prophecy hinting at Moses’ ascendancy.

After revelations, disgrace and banishment Moses begins a new life before taking a bad blow to the head, prompting conversations with a stroppy shepherd boy no one else can see. For lo! the kid is the voice of God. Thus we have a neatly workable dual theory of Moses as a prophet with a vision, or a troubled man with delusions. If he's the latter at least he has the guts and charisma to get the Israelites on board with his fight for freedom, a campaign of guerrilla tactics helped along immeasurably by God’s wrath, or Nature’s. And this is what we came for: a thrilling, flowing Ten Plagues sequence, in which such trials as the gory bloodying of the Nile and the cloud of insects are truly torments, particularly when rendered in 3D, while the parting of the Red Sea culminates in a genuinely awesome tsunami.

Fundamentalists and armchair casting directors will have no difficulty finding things with which to take issue. But timeless aspects of sibling rivalry, racial enmity and being at the mercy of God or fate or the elements resonate powerfully, and there’s no question that this is meaty, masterfully crafted and decidedly entertaining.

General release from Fri 26 Dec.

Exodus: Gods and Kings official trailer

Exodus: Gods and Kings

  • 4 stars
  • 2014
  • US / UK / Spain
  • 2h 22min
  • 12A
  • Directed by: Ridley Scott
  • Cast: Christian Bale, Joel Edgerton, John Turturro, Aaron Paul, Ben Mendelsohn, Sigourney Weaver, Ben Kingsley
  • UK release: 26 December 2014

The defiant leader Moses rises up against the Egyptian Pharaoh Ramses, setting 600,000 slaves on a monumental journey of escape from Egypt and its terrifying cycle of deadly plagues.