Raised as brothers from birth Egyptians Moses and Rameses are raised as powerful generals. When Rameses becomes Pharoh, Moses is his most trusted advisor until his true Hebrew parenthood is discovered. Exiled to the desert, Moses is faced by God and tasked to free the Hebrews from slavery.
Let’s confront the elephant in the room in the fact that for such a modern adaptation of a Biblical tale, the casting is somewhat off. I’m a huge fan of Christian Bale but something is slightly off about a white American playing the lead role in such a PC conscious age. Charlton Heston got away with it in The Ten Commandments back in 1956 (with Yul Brynner as Pharoh Rameses the III) but this was a time when smoking was endorsed by doctors and persons of race other than white had to sit at the back of the bus. Surely they could have found someone at least a little Egyptian looking than Mr Bale’s pale features? Moving on…
For those who aren’t aware of the story of Moses this film plays out like Sunday Bible School meets Gladiator, a sweeping epic full of violence and betrayal…you know, the good Old Testament stuff. The heavy use of CGI to fill in the arching desert landscapes of ancient Egypt cities work well but the scenery isn’t enough to make up for the uneasy narrative. Flitting between dragging its heels in the middle and rushing the more interesting parts such as the plagues, what’s constant is the gritty brutality and suffering of the Hebrew slaves. Sitting as a 12A, the bloodlust is reigned in slightly and probably more than it should be for a time renowned for such violence.
Ridley Scott who gave us cinematic treats such as Alien and Gladiator presents well framed and beautiful shots which while spectacular, feel nothing more than that as the mish-mash of actor’s accents and skin tone struggle for authenticity. Suspiciously absent is Signourney Weaver whose three lines only add suspicion that there is a better subplot on the background of Moses and Rameses childhood and the fact that a lot of Weaver’s parts were cut for the runtime.
Whilst nowhere near as radical or overblown as ‘Noah’, what we have is a update to an old tale with added pizazz. It may be far from Scott’s best work to date, it’s sure to amuse athiests and ruffle feathers amongst your local Jewish and Christian communities. Not a classic as The Ten Commandments, but worth viewing.
Words by Andrew Marshall (@retrothekidd)