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Movie Night – 'Exodus' entertaining but not accurate (Dec. 17, 2014)

The first, and most critical, measure of a Biblical movie is its authenticity, how strictly it adheres to the source material. By that measure, “Exodus: Gods and Kings” is a failure. It is a Biblical movie only in the broadest sense. As purely a source of entertainment, it is only moderately successful.
“Exodus” is the story of Moses and the plight of the Israelites in captivity in Egypt, you had probably already figured that out. The movie opens with an adult Moses (Christian Bale) and Prince Ramses (Joel Edgerton) planning an attack on the Hittites at the request of Pharaoh Seti I (John Turturro). (How a movie about Moses can begin with anything other than baby Moses in a basket in the river is beyond me, but I digress.) During the battle Moses saves the life of Ramses.
A short time later, after Seti has died and Pharaoh Ramses II has become king, Moses learns his true ancestry from one of the Jewish elders. He is Jewish, a Hebrew like the slaves that have built Egypt, built their statues and their pyramids.
Word of Moses’ true ancestry reaches Ramses. Rather than executing Moses, Ramses instead exiles him to the land east of Egypt. What Ramses does not expect is that Moses flourishes in this new land. He takes a wife, becomes a shepherd, and has a son.
Nine years passes and the Israelites are still in captivity, still slaves to their Egyptian masters. While attempting to herd some wayward sheep Moses is hit by a falling rock. When he wakes he sees a burning bush and a young boy. The young boy speaks to Moses, telling him that Moses has been chosen to return to Egypt to free the Israelites. Moses realizes the boy is a messenger from God and reluctantly leaves his family to return to Egypt.
You know the rest of the story. Ramses refuses to release his slaves and God brings down plagues upon Egypt. Not until the children of Egypt are struck down by the angel of death does Ramses release the Israelites, only to decide later to hunt them down. The culmination of the story is the parting and crossing of the Red Sea.
There are many inaccuracies of the story when compared to the Biblical tale of Moses. The first issue is that Ramses II was not the Pharaoh at the time of the exodus of the Israelites. Ramses II was born in 1303 BC and died in 1213 BC. The exodus took place around 1500 BC. In the movie Moses does not know his Jewish ancestry until he was told as an adult. In the Bible Moses is raised by his birth mother and knows his Jewish heritage all along.
Of course, the Bible does not speak of a small boy who speaks for God. God speaks to Moses directly from the burning bush. The movie makes it appear that Moses was delusional after a blow to his head, that he was not actually talking to God, but to voices in his head. The filmmakers also decided to make the plagues upon Egypt appear to have a scientific basis rather a divine origin. There are no scenes of Moses and Aaron pleading with the Pharaoh in between each plague. There are no scenes of the Pharaoh agreeing to release the Israelites and then reneging. There are no scenes of Aaron speaking for Moses. The list of inaccuracies could go on for pages.
As a piece of entertainment only, “Exodus” tells a good story with impressive visuals. The plagues and the parting of the Red Sea are impressive, even though they are but a small part of the movie. The rendition of ancient Egypt and the costumes and setting that goes along with that was very impressive. The grandeur of the Egyptian empire is amazing. The middle part of the movie, between the exile of Moses and his return to free the Israelites, is boring. The casting of white actors for all of the major roles is somewhat perplexing, as is the fact that the Egyptians speak English with a British accent.
“Exodus” is not a movie to take your Sunday School class to see. This is not the Moses of the Old Testament, it’s one man’s distorted version of the story. It’s not even close to the waste of time and money that was “Noah,” but if you watch “Exodus” do so only with the intention of being entertained, not of an accurate portrayal of one of the most-loved heroes of the Bible.
Grade: C+
Rated PG-13 for violence including battle sequences and intense images.