There are some stunning visual effects in Ridley Scott’s latest blockbuster/bumbreaker, but perhaps the most impressive of all is how, as Moses, Christian Bale manages to morph into Charlton Heston, albeit with a whispered and barely intelligible enunciation.
The casting in general is shonky in the extreme – John Turturro as King Seti flounces around like a haberdasher in after-hours drag; Aaron Paul from Breaking Bad, in the part of Joshua, is in a state of constant bewilderment and looking like he needs a hit of meth (I half expected him at any minute to address Moses as Mister White); Joel Edgerton’s surly sulking Ramses the Great is a kind of nasty Maximus in eye makeup and Ben Mendelsohn plays Hegep, one of Ramses’s officials, with high-camp silliness.
Unlike in Scott’s mighty Gladiator, where we were led down a storyline unknown to us, with an ending never blatantly flagged, this movie has absolutely nothing happening of which we’ve not already been informed.
There’s the burning bush, the plagues of Egypt, the parting of the Red Sea – enough already, I groaned inwardly. To perhaps lift that dead weight of over-familiarity, Scott has come up with the quirky if not terribly kosher idea of having God personified by a repulsive little boy who is forever demanding more of Moses and who ultimately exercises his spiteful wrath by inflicting upon the people of Egypt the mass slaughter of innocent children that is commemorated in the observance of the Passover.
Despite the title, there is no interest shown in the fascinating deities and highly ritualised religious practices of ancient Egypt, but the scene where rampaging crocodiles go on a bloody feeding frenzy in the Nile, leaping bodily out of the river to clutch fishermen in their ferocious jaws, is a ripper – in fact I was at the point of nodding off before it happened.
The art direction is seductive, with plenty of thrilling aerial shots, but you could probably think of more beneficial ways to spend $140 million.
~ John Campbell