DIRECTOR: Timur Bekmambetov LEAD CAST: Jack Huston, Tobby Kebbel, Morgan Freeman, Rodrigo Santoro, Nazanin Boniadi SCREENWRITER: Keith Clarke; John Ridley PRODUCER: Mark Burnett; Sean Daniel EDITOR: Dody Dorn, Richard Francis-Bruce Bob Murawski MUSICAL DIRECTOR: Marco Beltrami GENRE: Drama, Action CINEMATOGRAPHER: Pliver Wood DISTRIBUTOR: Paramount Pics, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer FILMING LOCATIONS: USA, Italy RUNNING TIME: 150 minutes
Technical assessment: 4
Moral assessment: 4
CINEMA rating: PG 13
MTRCB rating: PG
Judah Ben-Hur (Jack Huston) is falsely accused of treason by his adopted brother, Messala Severus (Tobby Kebbel) who had since leaving home been appointed by Pontius Pilate as an officer in the Roman army. Stripped of his rank and dignity, and separated from wife Esther (Nazanin Boniadi) and his family, Judah is forced to hard labor at sea in a Roman warship. After five years of enslavement, he is washed ashore and rescued by Sheikh Ilderim (Morgan Freeman). Pleading with Ilderim to take him with him to Jerusalem, Ben Hur wins the favor of the wealthy sheikh by proving himself as an expert at the treatment of horses. Ben Hur soon agrees to Ilderim’s scheme to have him race chariots in the circus against the reigning champion, Messala. Offering a hefty wager in exchange for Ben Hur’s freedom, Ilderim persuades Pilate to accept Ben Hur in the races. Seeking revenge, Ben Hur instead finds redemption.
Ben Hur is one proof that a compelling story can be the foundation of a marvelous film. A re-imagining of Lew Wallace’s 1880 novel “Ben Hur: A Tale of the Christ”, the 2016 film is helmed by Timur Bekmambetov who found in the script an “incredibly meaningful story, impressing with not just sensational action but with line-up of amazing life-like characters and deep thinking, with emotions and actions that are relatable and have a modern, universal resonance.” The smartly chosen cast and their superb performances provide the spine for the realism of the film, enhanced by spot-on cinematography an dialogue, fabulous production sets, costumes (clothes of biblical times with a 21st century twist), sound effects, music, and CGI that portrays history without the histrionic outbursts of computer driven action movies.
Ben Hur teaches without preaching, and respects the intelligence of the viewer. Noteworthy is the subtle interweaving of Ben Hur’s journey and the mission of Jesus—two parallel threads that pull the pieces together towards a logical and satisfying resolution of a fraternal conflict. Ben Hur is more than just a story of chariot racing. Families can relate to the characters, for it is a story about brothers, about family, about love and hate in equal parts and the unique conflict the mixture spawns. It reminds families of how our loved ones disappoint us, how badly we treat the ones we love, how often the call for forgiveness falls on our deaf ears, and how freedom may be won through forgiveness and compassion. A must-see.