What you need to know
Ridley Scott's biblical epic Exodus: Gods and Kings opens in UK cinemas this Boxing Day. The film, starring Christian Bale, Joel Edgerton and John Turturo, has received some criticism for not casting actors of Middle Eastern ethnicity in lead roles.
The story is an interpretation of the tale from the Book of Exodus, which describes how Moses led the Hebrews out of Egypt. In the film, Moses (Bale) is an adopted brother of the Pharaoh's son, who discovers that he is in fact a Hebrew slave by birth. After being banished from the kingdom he has a spiritual awakening, which prompts his return to Egypt to demand freedom for all Hebrew slaves.
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What the critics like
Exodus is "as spectacular and surprising as you would expect from Scott", says Nev Pierce in Empire. Its spiritual uncertainty and lack of triumphalism make for a truly modern, thoughtful biblical blockbuster.
What's remarkable about Scott's "genuinely imposing Old Testament psychodrama" is the degree to which he succeeds in conjuring a mighty and momentous spectacle, while turning his own scepticism into a potent source of moral and dramatic conflict, says Justin Chang in Variety. On its own grand, imperfect terms, it is undeniably transports the audience with a free-flowing visual splendour.
Exodus is "bold and uncompromising stuff from Scott" who refuses to mark out anyone as straightforwardly good, and pits brother against brother, race against race, and mankind against God, says Robbie Collin in the Daily Telegraph. It's a Biblical epic to shake your faith in the order of things, not reaffirm it.
What they don't like
It's spectacularly filmed and intermittently well acted, though "not quite as much campy fun as the DeMille version", says in the Hollywood Reporter. It's also not in the same league as Scott's Gladiator, but it has the added kick of 3D technology, and enough eye-popping set pieces to please adventure fans.
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