More than six months after it’s release, I finally got to watch Ridley Scott’s newest big-budget film. I had been excited to see Exodus, but this past semester had proven too busy to fit in a trip to the movies. So, last week, I sat down with my wife and a good friend to see what it was all about. As always, if you haven’t seen the film and plan to do so, this discussion will probably involve some spoilers. You’ve been warned.
To begin, I had high hopes. Gladiator, also directed by Ridley Scott, is my favourite film of all time. I was hoping his return to the classical era would be another hit. I blatantly ignored the criticism from both sides of the secular/Christian divide and wanted to see the film for myself.
And, for a film created by a self-described agnostic, I was pleased. Not overwhelmed, not blown away, but pleased. Scott took an epic story from the Bible and made it accessible for a secular audience while not exorcising God out of the picture. Sure, the child playing God seems to toe the line of blasphemy all along the way, but He is in it. And He is shown to be involved in the story.
I was really expecting a far more “naturalist” approach to the acts of God in Exodus. Yet, when Moses proves incapable of rescuing the people on his own, God steps in to force the Egyptians into freeing His people. Even with a cause-and-effect take on the plagues (blood in the Nile sends the frogs out, which attract flies after they die, which cause boils, etc), it is clear that God is the initiator of the events.
However, this seems to be in opposition to a running question throughout the film: did Moses actually speak with God, or was he delusional? A question that is to be expected, (especially with Christian Bale referring to Moses as schizophrenic and barbaric), but the plagues came from somewhere, and Moses did not seem to be having any other signs of insanity. An interesting question, but it seems the film answered it fairly early on.
Perhaps my favourite theme throughout is the need for humility. Bale’s Moses begins as a proud, confident warrior and leader (not the shy, speech-impeded Biblical figure) whose journey leads him up against insurmountable obstacles. It is only when he humbles himself before God that he is finally able to complete his task and lead the Israelite people to safety.
I have to admit that the film was not the powerhouse that I wanted it to be. There is some solid acting and incredible visual effects, but the movie overall seems to be lacking that magical quality of a classic film. Yet, even in this adequate movie made by a secular filmmaker, we can draw themes of humility and God’s sovereignty out into the open for discussion. As you all know, any time we can get people to talk about God, faith, and humanity, I’m happy.
So, if you haven’t seen the film, go check it out. If you have, what did you think? Chime in!