Verdict: A gallant effort to remake the classic.
They say it’s never easy to recreate the old magic and rightly so when you are trying to remake Ben-Hur, one of the all-time classics! While most directors may have succumbed to the weight of expectations set by the previous movie, the director Timur Bekmambetov has done a fairly decent job. This latest film by Paramount Pictures is actually the sixth on-screen adaption of Ben- Hur, which comes close to the original classic of 1959 in terms of acting, narrative and the premise. If you haven’t seen the age old classic, don’t worry, you can still watch this one and enjoy.
The premise of the movie takes you the Anno Domini era when Jesus was still alive and well. Judah Ben-Hur (Jack Huston), a nobleman, is falsely accused of colluding with the zealots who stand against the supreme Roman empire. As things would have it, his own childhood friend and adoptive brother, Messala (Toby Kebbell), who marched his way to the top within the Roman army, betrays him. Judah is sent to the galley to work as a slave and suffer for eternity. Forgotten and forlorn, he breaks free and is found by a wealthy African named Sheik Ilderim (Morgan Freeman) who trains Ben-Hur to become a charioteer to avenge his betrayal by his brother, Messala.
The first half of the movie is spent developing the two central characters and trying to strike the right emotional chord with the audience. It does an excellent job at that. The second half of the movie gets a tad bit slow and you are just left waiting for the finale. Though this movie doesn’t really flesh out all the characters as compared to the 1959 adaptation, it all bodes well in 120-odd minutes. Having said that, the movie has its own issues but can be ignored for the gripping narrative. Another major disappointment for ardent fans could be the advent of CGI. Visual effects wise, some scenes left us wanting for more, which made it less riveting, especially the grand finale. The movie, if compared to its older counterpart, falls a little short. But then again, there shouldn’t be any comparisons. It should be treated as a stand-alone movie, with a renewed approach.
Why you should watch it:
Watch it for the gripping narrative and some brilliant acting by the two leads – Huston and Kebbell. To its core, this is a movie about love, family, struggle, and revenge, which will keep you engaged for the entire length of the movie. Ben-Hur surely qualifies as an entertaining weekend pick.
-By Anish Dhurat