Film / Exodus

Exodus is a 1960 epic film directed and produced by Otto Preminger, based on a 1958 novel by Leon Uris about the founding of the modern state of Israel. The story follows a collection of characters in 1947 and 1948 as they fight the British (in order to gain independence for Israel and support for the Partition Plan) and then the Arabs (to keep their newly-established nation).

The main characters are as follows:

  • Ari Ben Canaan (Paul Newman): a leader of the Haganah (Jewish paramilitary organization fighting for Israeli independence) born in Palestine, a former member of the Jewish Corps that fought for the British during World War II, now using those skills to smuggle Jews into Palestine and fight to create an independent Jewish state. The mastermind of the Exodus plan that takes up the first hour or so of the film.
  • Kitty Fremont (Eva Marie Saint): a widowed American nurse who happens to be visiting her husband's friend General Sutherland when the Exodus plan is enacted. Serves as an intermediary between Ben Canaan and the General, and later falls in love with him and follows him to Palestine. Feels a motherly instinct towards Karen Hansen, and wants to adopt her and bring her back to America with her.
  • Karen Hansen (Jill Haworth): a German Jew whose family managed to smuggle her into Denmark where she safely hid out during the Holocaust. Her mother and two brothers died in the camps, but her father may have survived and she was going to Palestine on the Star of David to find out. One of the 611 Jews to escape from Cyprus on the Exodus. In love with Dov Landau.
  • Dov Landau (Sal Mineo): an angry Polish Jew who survived the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising and Auschwitz. Like Karen, was on the Star of David trying to get to Palestine and manages to get there on the Exodus. Once in Palestine joins the Irgun.
  • General Sutherland (Ralph Richardson): British general in command of the Cyprus detention camp where Jews attempting to get to Palestine are held. Doesn't want to send them back to Germany (which his underling Major Caldwell suggests to him), but under orders not to let the Jews get to Palestine as they wish. Sympathetic to the Jews, and therefore suspected of being of Jewish descent himself.
  • Akiva Ben Canaan (David Opatoshu): Ari's uncle and a commander of the Irgun. A relatively affable man for the leader of a terrorist organization.
  • Taha (John Derek): the leader of the Arabic village next to the kibbutz of Gan Dafna. Friendly with the kibbutzniks, but troubled by the prospect of Israeli independence.

Ernest Gold's original music score won an Oscar, beating out other celebrated scores such as Spartacus, The Alamo, and The Magnificent Seven.

Not to be confused with the Book of Exodus.

Tropes in Exodus:

  • Adaptational Heroism: Taha is much more likeable and sympathetic in the film than the book - to the point of becoming a Sacrificial Lion for Arab-Israeli friendship.
  • Affably Evil: Akiva isn't portrayed as evil per se, but Ari and the other Haganah members definitely view him and the Irgun as being nothing but terrorists.
  • Epic Movie: nearly 3 and a half hours. Apparently at the premiere, a Jewish comedian stood up at the 3 hour mark and asked director Otto Preminger to "let my people go!"
  • Friendly Enemy: General Sutherland and Ari, Ari and Akiva, and Ari and Taha near the end of the film
  • Have a Gay Old Time: it's kinda weird to hear Zionist Jews being referred to as "Palestinians".
  • Jerkass: Major Caldwell, a Smug Snake Anti-Semetic asshole who has nothing but contempt for the Jews he's imprisoning on Cyprus and his commander who he thinks is too soft on them. Also the British soldiers at Fort Esther who refuse to return Gan Dafna's guns despite the very real threat of being attacked by their Arabic neighbors.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Ari may be somewhat cold and brusque, but he really does care about his people.
  • Not Even Bothering with the Accent: Jill Haworth appears to have been the only member of the cast to actually attempt to speak with the accent her character would have. It is incredibly obvious that Ari, Dov, Taha, Akiva, and most of the rest of the Arabs and Israelis are played by Americans. Ari does fake a British accent while pretending to be a British officer during his plan to smuggle the 611 Jews to Palestine.
  • Refuge in Audacity: How Ari plans on escaping from Cyprus with 611 Jewish internees.
    • And even more so, in the middle of the plan when Major Caldwell tells him he can spot a Jew from a mile away, Ari pretends to have something in his eye and asks Caldwell to check and see what it is, necessitating Caldwell getting within a few inches of his face.
  • Starcrossed Lovers: Dov and Karen finally admit that they love each other, only for Karen to be killed by Arabs.
  • Those Wacky Nazis: One of them shows up at the end acting as a trainer/enforcer for the Grand Mufti's anti-Israel forces.
  • Too Good for This Sinful Earth: Karen, who is murdered by Arab invaders near the end of the film.
  • We ARE Struggling Together: The Haganah and the Irgun do not like or trust each other, even though both are nominally striving for the same goal, just using different tactics. Ari and Akiva, being family, are more able to put aside their differences. Ari also manages to convince the Irgun to help him break several hundred Irgun and Haganah members out of Acre Prison, as well.
  • Your Terrorists Are Our Freedom Fighters: The Irgun.