BEN HUR – review

Ben-Hur is on the big screen once again. Based on the 1880 novel by Lew Wallace Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ, this adaptation is the story of two brothers, one adopted and the other a prince, and their constantly crossing fates. Judah Ben-Hur (Jack Huston), the prince, is subjected to years of slavery at the hand of his brother, the Roman soldier Messala (Toby Kebbell). In pursuit of revenge and fueled by hate, Judah Ben-Hur searches for Messala, but is encouraged to funnel his feelings towards his brother into a chariot race that could free him. Set in the lifetime of Jesus, this story is one of struggle, love, family, and redemption.ben4
I must admit, I have not seen the 1959 Charlton Heston version of the film or any of the other adaptations, so I cannot compare the films. I can only tell you what I though of this film on its own. I did read a synopsis of the past film and the novel before I went to the film. I was expecting a movie with a strain of Christianity and a chariot race, and I got what I expected.ben1
I enjoyed the casting choices. The primarily less known cast, with the exception of Morgan Freeman, perfectly portrayed their characters.  Of course, Morgan Freeman also perfectly executed his role as a rich, powerful, and knowledgeable sheikh.  My only critique with the casting would be that I wish they had cast another well-known actor as Pontius Pilate to equate his wealth and power to that of Morgan Freeman’s character. To me, Freeman’s power as an actor today almost negated the historical power of Pontius Pilate.ben2
My favorite thing about this film was the words. Movies today tend to add phrases for comedy or to move a scene along. In this film, it seemed like every word exchanged had a purpose and often times delivered a powerful message. If you are looking for the Christianity vein in this movie, you will find it in the words. I was expecting a very in-your-face presence of Christianity and Christ, but to me it was not an overbearing or distracting theme. Yes, Christianity has its moments and a presence in this movie, but the story mainly focuses on Judah and Messala with Jesus being another influence on their journey.ben5
Without having another version to compare this to, I give this version a B. I felt like I was missing some backstory at times, but I was able to put most of it together and I probably would have been bored if they explained all the loose ends. It had two action scenes that held my attention. The chariot race kept me on the edge of my seat (The fact that I saw this in 3-D, probably helped here). There was violence through the film, but it was expected and not excessively gory.  Morgan Freeman’s character was my favorite, but that could be just that his voice is very commanding but trust worthy. I would not see this movie again in 3-D, but that is mainly because 3-D gives me a headache. With the exception of the action scenes, I think the film would be just as good on a normal screen.
Mary Elizabeth Herries

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