One Night with the King
The more I read my Bible, I can't help but wonder what stories would work best on the silver screen. Retellings of Joshua, Daniel, Ruth … I'm still waiting on that epic, Braveheart-styled adaptation of the life of David that reduces the 1985 dud starring Richard Gere to a distant memory.
Esther wouldn't necessarily be near the top of my list as an obvious choice. The biblical story behind the Jewish festival of Purim isn't an overtly spiritual one on the surface, nor does it initially seem like it would translate well with the heavily historical exposition, building to an edict to wipe out God's people in Persia, and then a climax that hinges on the pointing of a scepter. We tend to simplify Esther down to one courageous entrance, but there's a lot more to her "call of destiny"—and perhaps too much more in the case of One Night with the King.
Based on Tommy Tenney's novel Hadassah: One Night with the King, this film comes to us from Gener8xion Entertainment, which also brought us 1999's The Omega Code. They've clearly learned a thing or two about production values since then, as One Night with the King may well be the best-looking movie from a Christian company to date, with sumptuous visuals that are both artistic and authentic.
Filmed in India, director Michael O. Sajbel and his team have recreated the Persian kingdom with the picturesque look of a fairy tale—or Naboo from the more recent Star Wars films. Sweeping camera work reminiscent of The Lord of the Rings trilogy gives us a bird's eye view of the palace and the surrounding landscape. Beautiful costumes and set designs add to the look—Esther's wedding day offers the same elegant pageantry that established Cecil B. DeMille during the golden age of Hollywood.
Praise is also deserved for the film's impressive casting. Newcomer Tiffany Dupont is picture perfect as the female lead, exuding beauty, intelligence, and humility with a young woman's charm that somehow seems sweetly appropriate for the biblical equivalent to Cinderella. Surrounding her is a strong and diverse array of male actors, none better than John Rhys-Davies (Raiders of the Lost Ark) with his warm portrayal of Esther's cousin Mordecai. Luke Goss (Blade II) brings hunky royalty to the part of Xerxes, John Noble (The Return of the King) makes Prince Admantha as conniving as Denethor was, and James Callis (TV's new Battlestar Galactica) has a hateful glower that brings Haman close to Shakespearean villainy. There's also Omar Sharif in a small part as another princely advisor, and Peter O'Toole in a blink-and-you'll-miss-it cameo as the prophet Samuel.
But Samuel is actually part of the reason One Night falls short—he's completely unnecessary! It's important to remember that the movie is an adaptation of a novelization of the book of Esther. A common mistake made in adapting any book (e.g the Harry Potter movies) is the attempt to transfer everything on the written page to film. The Lord of the Rings trilogy succeeded because the filmmakers discerned the difference between developments vital to the storytelling and details incidental to it—the essential vs. the extraneous.