30th October, 2007
One Night With The King (PG)
In A Word: Almost
A FATEFUL MEETING: Esther (played by Tiffany Dupont) speaks with Xerxes I (played by Luke Goss).
"'One Night With The King' does a workmanlike job of bringing the Old Testament tale to life and is worth a look just to see a fresh take on Esther’s story (which explains the story behind the Jewish festival of Purim). But ultimately it falls short of what could have been a great movie."
Evoking the tradition of the great film epics of the past (think The Ten Commandments or Ben Hur), One Night With The King retells the remarkable Old Testament story of Esther, the Jewish woman who rose to become a Persian Queen and ended up saving her people from annihilation.
Esther (also known by the Jewish name of Hadassah, she is played by the relatively unknown Tiffany Dupont), was a Jew who lived with her cousin Mordecai (John Rhys-Davies - think of Sallah in Raiders of the Lost Ark), an official in the court of the Persian ruler Xerxes I, in the Persian city of Susa.
When Xerxes’ wife Vashti fell out of favor, the king (played by the muscular Luke Goss) orders all eligible women to be rounded up and ends up choosing Esther as his Queen. Urged to do so by Mordecai, she keeps her Jewish identity secret. But the King’s chief advisor, Haman the Agagite (played with aplomb by James Callis, Gaius Baltar of TV series Battlestar Galactica), is on a mission to wipe the Jewish people from the earth and Esther finds herself facing a choice between protecting herself and saving her people.
Based on the Tommy Tenney novel Hadassah: One Night With The King (the tale does differ slightly from the Bibical version), One Night With The King puts some flesh on the bones of Esther’s story in the way that only a visual medium can.
The film is well cast (despite the, at times, jarring accents), and includes a few famous faces - Omar Sharif plays Prince Memucan and there’s even a cameo by Peter O’Toole, who appears briefly as the prophet Samuel - but in the end it’s the script which lets the movie down.
There’s a feeling of trying to squash too much into its two hour length (including a redundant prologue about why Haman wants to wipe out the Jews), making the story overly complicated and giving the audience too little time to empathise fully with the characters. It does help to have an idea of the story before watching it (although a voice-over from Mordecai helps).
While the costumes and sets are lavishly detailed and provide an imaginative and beautiful glimpse into what ancient Persia might have been like, there's an overuse of computer-animated graphics in some of the larger scenes.
One Night With The King does a workmanlike job of bringing the Old Testament tale to life and is worth a look just to see a fresh take on Esther’s story (which explains the story behind the Jewish festival of Purim). But ultimately it falls short of what could have been a great movie.
One Night With The King is showing in Australian cinemas from November 1. For release locations and more information, visit www.onenight.com.au.
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