Starring: Charlton Heston, Yul Brynner, Anne Baxter
Director: Cecil B. DeMille
Running Time: 220 mins
The Ten Commandments is an American film about the story of Moses, an Egyptian prince, who discovers his true heritage as a Hebrew, and so sets about freeing his people from enslavement at the hands of the pharaohs.
The story of Moses who freed the slaves is one of the most well-known in the Western world, but after watching The Ten Commandments, I can’t think of any other way that the story could be told.
A staggeringly majestic epic from legendary director Cecil B. DeMille, The Ten Commandments film uses every moment of its near-four hour runtime to absolute perfection, bringing the bible tale to life with thrilling cinematic energy. With gorgeous and enormous production values, brilliant special effects, a triumphant score and fantastic performances across the board, this film really is an all-time classic of storytelling.
The greatest epics of film history are more often than not slow-burn affairs, with the scale of their own runtime adding to the grandeur and majesty of the story they tell. The Ten Commandments is no exception, chronicling what feels like the story of a lifetime over 220 utterly enthralling minutes.
While the story builds and builds towards its legendary climax on the side of Mount Sinai, one thing that the film spends no time waiting to lavish you with is its spectacular production values, the kind that we sadly no longer see from Hollywood.
Full of enormous, ornate sets that recreate Ancient Egypt in striking technicolour, the way that The Ten Commandments uses practical effects is second to none, brilliantly evoking the scale and majesty of the ancient kingdom, and the seemingly insurmountable odds that Moses faces to overcome the tyranny of the pharaohs.
Couple that with gorgeous and lavish costume design, hairstyling and make-up, and you have a classic Hollywood epic that really fits the bill, sparing no expense in transporting you through history to this fascinating time of gods, kings and slaves.
Even more impressively, however, is the way that The Ten Commandments uses special effects. More than just making use of green screen-style backdrops, this film is full of spectacular effects to bring legendary acts of God like the parting of the Red Sea, the Plagues of Egypt and more to life in thrilling fashion.
And while it might be easy to dismiss the film’s effects as dated, they actually fit perfectly with its predominant use of practical effects, never appearing as jarring or unnecessary additions to what is an exquisitely-made epic.
So much of what makes this film great comes down to the incredible direction by Cecil B. DeMille. DeMille even appears on screen in what he describes as an unusual start to proceedings, describing his ambitions for The Ten Commandments in retelling the story of Moses on the big screen for all to appreciate.
And it’s that ambition which makes this film so, so impressive. Not only is it such a large-scale production, but DeMille ensures that the film retains both the detail and core themes of the original bible story as well as the capacity to entertain audiences in the modern day.
As such, there are moments of thrilling action, tense drama, romantic love and deep emotion, all of which bring so much more life to the story than if you were merely learning about it in a classroom. The screenplay crafts riveting characters out of the original story’s figures, and all of the actors bring such captivating energy to each and every personality on screen.
Charlton Heston is the ultimate hero in his role as Moses, and a delight to support and will on in his fight against the Pharaohs. Yul Brynner is brilliantly dastardly as Ramesses II, too, while supporting players including Anne Baxter as Nefretiri, Edward G. Robinson as Dathan, Debra Paget as Lilia, John Derek as Joshua and Nina Foch as Bithiah are all outstanding every time they appear on screen.
In a movie as enormous as this, you’d think it would be easy for characters to be lost by the wayside as they enter and exit the story surrounding Moses, but thanks to those fantastic and memorable performances, it’s always fantastic to see them appear on screen.
Finally, The Ten Commandments would in no way be complete without the triumphant musical score from the legendary Elmer Bernstein. The music here is so majestic and so theatrical that characters can barely even walk across a room without the sound of fanfare being heard.
The film’s scale as an adventure story would be nothing without Bernstein’s epic music, and it’s likely that the film would in no way be the immensely entertaining and majestic tale that it is if we weren’t treated to this spectacular score throughout.
Overall, then, I absolutely loved The Ten Commandments. A true Hollywood epic the likes of which we never see today, it’s a staggering production that takes a legendary story and tells it in the best way possible. Immensely entertaining, visually gorgeous, dramatically riveting and cinematically spectacular, The Ten Commandments may be almost 4 hours long, but it’s 4 hours of pure storytelling bliss. So, that’s why I’m giving it an 8.2.
(And there it is! My final film of 2020 is also the final film of my 8th year of watching a movie every day! Thank you for reading my reviews, and I hope you’ll continue following during the final 2 years of my epic project!)