Oscar-worthy ‘Ben Hur’ remake combines Jesus Christ’s teachings, vengeance and redemption [Review]

Oscar-worthy ‘Ben Hur’ remake combines Jesus Christ’s teachings, vengeance and redemption [Review]

Critics have lashed director Timur Bekmambetov like a borrowed chariot horse for all sorts of things in his movie Ben Hur, but really, what would be the point of copying the 11-Oscar-winning 1959 version? Bekmambetov’s story focuses on brotherly love, hate, vengeance and destruction, but most importantly on redemption. It will be great to write up for a school essay. While it’s not the flash, biff, bam we’re used to, with all the superheroes around, it will leave the audience with something to think about.

This version of the story will suffice as an introduction to Lew Wallace’s 1880 novel, Ben-Hur: A Tale of The Christ which was so good it was blessed by the Pope. The tale is gripping enough: two brothers, one adopted, one a prince, are growing up in the Roman empire in a Jewish family in Judeah. The adopted brother Messala (Toby Kebbell) is anxious about the fact that his dead father was a family embarrassment. He sees all that Judah Ben Hur (Jack Huston) has in his life, and even though he is treated as one a “real” son, he decides to seek his own fame and fortune in the Roman legions, where he fights his way to power.


Fast and Furious-style chariot races and meeting Jesus Christ: ten things you need to know about Ben-Hur


The people of Judeah are unhappy with the empire treating them cruelly, and rebellion is brewing, led by the Zealots. Ben Hur wants none of it but when he finds a wounded young rebel, he grudgingly helps him.

Ben Hur meets a carpenter who tell him that love will win over hate, but he shakes off the words of the man, who turns out to be Jesus Christ (Rodrigo Santoro). Their lives become strangely intertwined as part of the epic story.

Messala rises through the ranks, fighting his history as much as the Roman enemies, enduring the barbs of his fellow soldiers as much as the blows of the enemy. Then, after not answering his brother’s letters for years, he returns to Jerusalem, where he has to make sure that the Roman leader can pass unharmed through the city at the head of a legion. He reunites with Ben Hur and asks him to identify the Zealots. Fearing a Roman round-up, Ben Hur refuses to name anyone, saying only that he has spoken to them and the parade will go ahead safely.

It doesn’t. As the soldiers pass Ben Hur’s home, the young Zealot Ben Hur rescued shoots an arrow at the Roman leader, Pontius Pilate, which brings the Romans into the Hur home, looking for the culprit. Messala is trapped. He is responsible for Pilate’s safety, and his brother refused to help him. In a moment of anger he gives up Ben Hur and his family to the Romans.

Ben Hur is sent to be a galley slave, where for five years he is treated like a human engine for the Roman war ship. When the ship sinks, he narrowly escapes with his life to meet Ilderim, a wealthy African (played impeccably by Morgan Freeman). Ilderim has four beautiful Arab horses that he wants to race in the upcoming games in Ben Hur’s homeland. Ben Hur gets the job of charioteer and is set up in race against Messala. The chariot race is gripping, sickening, violent and the action highlight of the film.

The thought-provoking plot and all-round quality acting, directing, music and filming make Ben Hur well worth seeing.



Fast and Furious-style chariot races and meeting Jesus Christ: ten things you need to know about Ben-Hur


 

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