Ben-Hur is a period drama directed by Timur Bekmambetov. The story begins with, Judah Ben-Hur, a kind Jewish prince who is passionate about his beliefs. His adopted brother Messala, is in seek of something he believes is greater. Fame, fortune and power. After feeling alienated by his family, he becomes an officer in the Roman army. With tensions rising in Jerusalem as the Romans arrive, the brothers get pitted against each other as Judah Ben-Hur is accused of treason by Messala. A tale of two brothers that are destined to fight to the death for their beliefs.
Even though Ben-Hur has been touted as re-adaptation or reimagining of the novel, it hits a lot of the same beats as the 1959 Ben-Hur. The best parts of this version are those imitations, yet the rest makes the movie inadequate. It lacks the grand epic tone and heart of the 1959 film. Instead of being a true retelling, it opted to half epic tale and half Hollywood action film. The action sequences are riddled with too many up close shots, shaky cam, rough edits and heavy use of average CGI. Jack Huston lacks the gravitas that Charlton Heston brought to the role of Judah. He was boring in comparison to Toby Kebbell portrayal of Messala. Morgan Freeman’s character along with his lines, felt slightly off and didn’t fit the tone of the film. The score was good, until the last song at the credits. It was so out of place and sort of summed up my feelings of the film with me shaking my head at what I watched.
Even though it was a shorter run time than the previous adaptation, it was boring and felt longer. I loved the previous film as it had a superior telling of the story. Even on a technical level, it was amazing what they accomplished. This film had no real reason to be remade if it wasn’t going to attempt what they achieved with Ben-Hur (1959). Why settle to make a water down version of something that exists. Pass on this and just watch the older Heston version of Ben-Hur.
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Running time: 2 hr 3 min
Director: Timur Bekmambetov
Screenplay: Keith Clarke and John Ridley
Cast: Jack Huston, Toby Kebbell, and Morgan Freeman
Producers: Sean Daniel, Joni Levin and Duncan Henderson
Music: Marco Beltrami
Cinematography: Oliver Wood