Messala, the son of a Roman, is adopted by a Jewish noble family. His best friend and brother is Judah Ben-Hur, a good-hearted man, but naïve and unworldly.
When Messala leaves to fight for Rome and then comes back three years later, he is a different man. When his adoptive family is falsely accused of treason he does not hesitate to order their execution. But against all odds Judah survives. Thinking about nothing but revenge, he returns to Jerusalem. Will his revenge consume him? Or will he let forgiveness into his heart?
This year’s BEN-HUR is famously (or infamously) not a remake but a new cinematic adaptation of an original novel by Lew Wallace “BEN-HUR: THE TALE OF CHRIST”. But lets face it, the 1959 version was also a remake. In fact, the current film is the fifth (!!!) version of the book.
One thing is clear – the BEN-HUR of 2016 will never get good reviews, because it is not even getting close to the 1959's movie with Charlton Heston. But there’s a lot to like about this new version of the story.
For a movie that clocks off just over 2.5 hours, and of the plot you know by heart, it is pretty easy to watch. It’s like watching a malty million dollar soap opera that is predictable, but you don’t want it to end. For a movie that has just one really cool action scene in the modern day and age it’s a great achievement.
The young actors are doing a good job, but in this production it's all about looking beautiful. It is a shiny, polished show for a modern generation with a Disney type of ending that will either make you cringe or smile in delight, all depending on your demographic, but really is focusing on those twelve year olds who should be clear about one thing – violence cannot be confronted by violence and getting even will put you in peril.
Giving a more prominent role to the Christ figure, this new BEN-HUR took a bit of a gamble, the scenes with a religious icon in a pop-corn summer blockbuster, look a bit laughable (I heard a few chuckles in the audience), but they do lead us to an inexplicable (AKA politically correct) and contradictory final act.
The chariot chase, which is the star of the movie, is fabulous. It is nerve tingling, spectacular and inventive, and gives a different twist to the well known story. If only we could stop watching right there, without plunging into a rather ridiculous finale.
BEN-HUR is tailor made summer blockbuster movie that delivers on every front. If you can get detached from the classic you may find it very enjoyable. And even if you don’t, this is not the worst two and a half hours you spent in the cinema this summer and is definitely worth the admission ticket.