The classic tale gets another crack at the whip on the big screen. Ben Hur the Jewish Prince who is betrayed and treated as a criminal by his adopted Roman Brother must fight to take back what is rightfully his.
The 1950’s Ben Hur is one of those films you sit back and watch to this day and wonder why more people didn’t get hurt while filming it. It starred the go to guy of Biblical films Charlton Heston, who despite his politics and everything else, was one magnificent hammy actor. The action and the excitement was unreal for the time considering there were no computer effects. So when I heard that they were once again going to bring Ben Hur to the big screen, I thought to myself the same thing that I always think of when I hear a reboot is happening, WHY? They’ve done it right before so why?
Anyway when I calmed down and came out from under the bed I made my way to the press screening and I want to give this film credit and say that this is a strong three out of five. It’s got some great performances and great action. I loved the action here as it seemed that they have used some practical effects more than a slew of computer aided graphics, don’t get me wrong there are a lot of scenes where the computer has been used. I’d hate to know how many horses were injured in the 50’s screen outing, I know that some stunt performers were injured to some degree, but for some reason I care more about animals than people. Here I’m assured there were few injuries to cast of any species.
The story is a wonderful showing of how we’ve always been separated by our religion, race, or place of birth. Ben Hur’s fate is tied to Jesus and the film makers here have no problem with throwing the Son of God into the film at the right times and it adds some weight to the story of the Prince who became a Galley Slave, who raced against his oppressors in the Chariots to win his freedom.
Jack Huston takes the title role and while he has nowhere near the on screen presence that Charlton has he does a good job as the Prince who just wants to live in peace and yet can’t as his people and the occupying Romans are bound in a constant struggle with one another. When an attempt on the life of Pilot fails Ben Hur’s adopted Roman brother chooses his loyalty to Rome over the adopted brother he loves and sends him to row for Rome. Toby Kebbell plays the adopted brother and I’m starting to wonder who is picking his movies for him. He’s fine here but he’s capable of more. The rest of the cast do an admirable job and the film is one of a slew of Biblical films that have graced the silver screen over the last few years but is one of the better ones.
The biggest problem with this film has nothing to do with this film at all. The production values are good, cast do their jobs well, and they offer a social commentary on today as well. The problem is that we didn’t need this film to be remade. The 50’s version could have easily been re-released and they would have had a bigger audience. I don’t know what is going on with Morgan Freeman as he seems to be turning up in anything these days, the pay must be good, but he’s a fantastic performer with the right material and needs to think about his roles more.
Ben Hur 2016 is not a bad film, no matter what you read or the numbers you see, it’s an okay film that suffers from having a superior older version. I have just bought the original on DVD and will be watching it again, while I’d go see this version in the cinema it will not be added to the collection at home.
Director: Timur Bekmambetov
Writers: Lew Wallace, Keith R. Clarke, John Ridley
Stars: Jack Huston, Toby Kebbell, Rodrigo Santoro