“Ben-Hur” stars Jack Huston, Toby Kebbell, Rodrigo Santoro, and Morgan Freeman. Released on August 19, 2016, the film is about a Jewish prince who vows revenge against his adoptive brother after being falsely accused of treason.
The film is directed by Timur Bekmambetov, who also directed films such as Wanted and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. It is the fifth film adaptation of the 1880 novel “Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ” by Lew Wallace. The 1959 version of Ben-Hur is considered a cinematic classic by a ton of critics and movie fans alike. I have heard of the film, but alas, I haven’t seen it nor do I have the time to watch it. Mostly because it is over 200 minutes long. That’s even longer than James Cameron’s Titanic! But back to this film, it is the latest addition to the long list of 2016 remakes that’s striving to please fans of the original despite their immature hatred of Hollywood retelling their classics to a new generation of moviegoers. I have not seen the other film adaptations of Ben-Hur, including the 1959 version, so as always, I will be reviewing it as its own film. Why? Because I can, that’s why.
The story is clearly a brother-against-brother tale with a bit of religion on the side. While I do find it interesting, it didn’t really captivate me that much. Yes, it did have some religious themes in there, which might be suitable for a Christian audience, but I think it needs to be more than just having those qualities to impress its audience. Jack Huston, known for his role in Boardwalk Empire, takes on the role as the title character. I wouldn’t say he’s a great performer, but I thought he did a very nice job portraying that character. Toby Kebbell goes from an orc in Warcraft to being the adoptive brother of Ben-Hur named Messala. He was all right. Not his best performance in his career, but not terrible, either. When these two main actors (Huston and Kebbell) share the same screen together, there were times where their chemistry together works, and at other times, it didn’t really create that much of an impact to me. One of the reasons why I went to see this film is not because of its concept nor its story, but because of Morgan Freeman, who plays Sheik Ilderim in the film. I seriously can’t help it, you guys. Morgan Freeman is one of my favorite actors and I certainly can’t pass on a film that has him in it. Plus, he’s got a nice wig. All I can say about his performance is that it’s just Morgan Freeman being Morgan Freeman. Nothing different. The first act of the film does take a little while to get through because of its unbalanced pacing. It doesn’t make it boring, it basically had a tough time finding the right pace. If there’s another thing that I would give this film credit for, it would be the chariot race sequence. If you’re planning on watching this film because of that sequence, let me kindly remind you that it doesn’t happen until about the third act (Sorry). I got to say that I happened to enjoy that sequence a bit more than the rest of the film. It’s entertaining and a little intense. It’s a brutal ride from start to finish.
Overall, “Ben-Hur” is a watchable summer film that nearly galloped its way out of trouble, but that’s not saying much. The actors did a decent job portraying their characters and the chariot race sequence was fun to watch, but its interesting, yet typical, story got caught in the midst of some unbalanced pacing and its lack of emotional oomph. On the plus side, I get to see Morgan Freeman with a wig. I’m assuming that he’s wearing a wig. Anyway, I would possibly recommend it to those who are into films that have religious qualities and to those who are familiar with the other film adaptations of the source material.