Based on Leon Uris’ novel, this historical epic provides a dramatic backstory to the creation of the state of Israel in 1948, in the aftermath of World War II. Ari Ben Canaan (Paul Newman), a passionate member of the Jewish paramilitary group Haganah, attempts to transport 600 Jewish refugees on a dangerous voyage from Cyprus to Palestine on a ship named the Exodus. He faces obstruction from British forces, who will not grant the ship passage to its destination.
GAH. This movie. Thisssss movie.
I know a lot of critics have said that it’s slow and talky and much too long (it’s about three and a half hours in length) but, hello, it’s an epic and it does have exciting bits (though I happen to prefer the talking) and anyway, epics are supposed to be long (and it’s shorter than Gone With The Wind, and I don’t notice anyone dissing that movie). Sure, watching a movie as long and involved and complicated and messy (and awesome) as Exodus takes some time and some commitment, but it’s so worth it in the end. Books and movies that give me an experience are my favorites, and with movies that can usually only be achieved with a run-time of three hours or more. At least that’s my opinion.
It’s really sad in places. I mean, we’re talking a story about the Jews just a year or so after WWII and the Holocaust and there’s fighting and dying and lots of feels. But I can handle the depressing-ness of it because there’s hope (though I must say that the ending isn’t one of the most hope-filled I’ve seen) and there are moments of calm and beauty and it’s wonderful. I think everyone should see this film at least once, just to say they’ve watched it, and then maybe a second time to concentrate on Ernst Gold’s sweeping score (one of the best soundtracks EVER – I’m listening to it right now, actually) and the connections between all the characters and…oh, just everything. It’s better on the re-watch.
Characters. THE CHARACTERS. I want to give each and every one of them the biggest hug right now. They all deserve one. (Except for Peter Lawford’s character and that slimy Nazi dude.) Even though I haven’t read the novel that Exodus was based on, I’m glad the moviemakers decided to based the movie on a novel and not on real life, which sounds weird, but hear me out. I’ve already read the book, Operation Exodus, which tells the real story, so I know how everything happened. And if they’d based the movie off real life, the characters would probably have been cardboard cut-outs that they threw in to hang the plot and the major events on. Instead, you get strong, admirable, splendid characters to really root for, and they drive the plot – the plot doesn’t drive them. So, HUGS FOR EVERYONE. ‘Cause they’re all super.
If you really think about it (I mean, if you’ve watched Exodus before reading this review) relationships are a huge part of this story. Ari and Kitty, Ari and his dad, Ari and his sister, Ari and Taha, Kitty and Karen, Dov and Karen…the list could go on and on. And because the characters are so well-rounded, the relationships work, keeping you riveted throughout the film. Ari is played amazingly by Paul Newman and I refuse to watch another Newman film because he did such a good job in Exodus and I want to keep that image in my head (he’s half-Jewish, by the way, which I thought was cool). That may sound dumb to you but, hey, it’s my life. The rest of the cast did an excellent job as well, particularly Eva Marie Saint as Kitty (she’s basically the audience – observing and experiencing everything), Sal Mineo as Dov, and Jill Haworth as Karen. (Also, it made me grin to see John Derek as the Arab leader, Taha, because he played Joshua in The Ten Commandments.) Oh, and Lee J. Cobb was great as Ari’s father.
I’ve mentioned the music before, but it is glorious. Especially that soaring main theme.
Exodus is an epic of a film, chronicling the Jews’ journey from Cyprus to Israel (which actually takes up only a fraction of the movie) and their subsequent fight to stay. The scene where (spoiler alert, but not really) the UN votes for the Jewish people to have their own country always brings tears to my eyes. It’s an enthralling, spellbinding story and one that I would highly recommend to pretty much anyone. If you haven’t watched Exodus yet, you really, really need to.
P.S. I just checked and the whole thing’s available on Youtube. Right here. So now you have to watch it!