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The Bible – Jacob (1995)  rating

Review: written 2007

Star studded, accurate to Bible, but underwhelming in delivery

The story of Jacob from the Bible is fairly faithfully retold in no-nonsense terms in this movie directed by Sir Peter Hall.

Matthew Modine plays Jacob, Sean Bean is his brother Esau whose inheritance and blessing he steals. He leaves to avoid his brother's wrath and to seek a wife from Laban, and ends up with more than he bargained for. Two wives and 14 years later, he returns home to face his brother.

Hall was better known for his theatre work - this makes for strong adherence to the source material, but not the most gripping cinematic experience. Having said that, the acting is fine, especially from the women. Lara Flynn Boyle makes an early appearance here as Rachel, Jacob's true love. The rest of the cast has some fine character actors such as Irene Papas and Joss Ackland as Rebekah and Isaac, and the prolific Giancarlo Giannini as Laban. The class extends to the music, written by Ennio Morricone. The central role of Jacob is thin however, Modine failing to exhibit the charisma, inner strength and spiritual life we’re left to read between the lines and assume Jacob had.

Sensibly, periods we know little to nothing about are skipped, and the story focuses on the classic elements we know from the Bible. Moments which could be over the top such as wrestling with the angel and Jacob's Ladder, are told or shown in an appropriately down to earth way.

The fine acting, authentic feel and appropriate music all make this the best it could be, but cannot hide the fact that this is not the most cinematic story. If you have an interest in the Bible, you will get something out of this, if you are looking for an exciting or enthralling movie, maybe this is not your best starting place. Could have been 4 stars except for Matthew Modine's lack of conviction in the role.

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