It was 1959 when the epic story of Ben-Hur starring Charlton Heston was released. While mostly remembered for its classic, spellbinding chariot race, there is so much more to the story. Judah Ben-Hur and his adopted brother Messala enjoy a deep affection for each other until they become young men. Ben-Hur born into status and privilege sees the excesses of the Roman Empire as a necessary component of maintaining peace. Messala views the Empire as the route to the status that Ben-Hur was born into, joins and quickly rises through the ranks of the Roman army. Esther, Ben-Hur's childhood friend and later his wife, resists the Romans and advocates for the infidels who suffer the most at the hand of the Romans. This sympathy and conflict of views lead to the dissension between Messala and Ben-Hur, and the imprisonment and loss of social standing for the Hur household members. And also ultimately results in the great chariot race between Messala and Ben-Hur. These activities occur against the backdrop of the rise of Jesus of Nazareth.
Ben-Hur methodically lays out the characters' relationships, their behavioral motives before culminating in the climatic competition. It's a See It!
One issue with this movie is the dialogue seems a bit too 21st century. For example, when one character responds to another by saying: "Well, that's life!" Or the comment: "Everyone act normal!" And the statement: "Those are the people you run with." Are these really the phrases people used in biblical days?
But this film does come into its own. Notwithstanding some of the questionable dialogue, the performances of Jack Huston as Ben-Hur, Toby Kebbell as Messala, and Nazanin Boniadi as Esther all give authenticity to this epic story. The cast is greatly enhanced by the majestic Morgan Freeman as Sheik Ilderim, Ben-Hur's mentor, and supporter. The Sheik's role is greatly expanded from the previous adaptions of this story.
Also, Ben-Hur is bolstered by the powerful scenes both on land and at sea captured by the outstanding cinematography.
Ultimately, the movie ends with the thrilling, climactic chariot races with takes 32 days in Rome to film. It's time well spent!
Ben-Hur gets a "B" for cast diversity. Morgan Freeman's central role, accompanied by a heavy presence of black characters in background scenes supports that rating.
Ben-Hur will have to bring in the crowds to recover its $100 million production costs. It's 124 minutes in length and rated PG-13 for sequences of violence and disturbing imagery.