Exodus: Gods and Kings

Here’s a great escape for you. The ancient tale of Israelites throwing off Egyptian slavery is foundational to human theology, and this movie about it certainly is escapist: None of its major roles — those would be the prophet Moses (Christian Bale), the pharaoh Ramses (Joel Edgerton), and the queen Tuya (Sigourney Weaver) — went to people of color. If it makes you feel better, the queen’s barely in the movie anyway; this being a Ridley Scott picture, manliness is of the essence. As action hero and vainglorious despot, respectively, Bale and Egerton both are fun to watch, and what a nice touch that it falls to Ben Kingsley, ever persuasive in matters of Jew rescue, to inform our Moses that he too is a Hebrew, with a solemn duty. God, in the form of some precocious archly British 10-year-old thespian, handles the rest. Maybe the best thing to say for this presentation is that it has a good working knowledge of relentless plagues. In addition to the blood, bugs, frogs, boils, locusts, darkness, and dead babies, Scott’s movie manages to assert that all our battling-hordes tedium in recent big-screen storytelling actually has biblical roots. Well, okay. The 3D seems more like a concession than an inspiration, and the CGI is so aesthetically familiar that even the parting of the Red Sea, while framed up with here’s-what-you’ve-been-waiting-for solicitude, feels perfunctory. A more enjoyable effect is simple and aural — the tendency of Moses’ sword to schwing with even the slightest movement.