Judah Ben-Hur (Jack Huston) is a Jewish Prince who is falsely accused of treason by his adopted brother Massala (Toby Kebbell) – an Officer in the Roman Army. After years at sea as a slave, Judah escapes and makes his way back to Jerusalem to seek revenge on Messala. The film is a remake of the 1959 version of the same name – something which I didn’t actually know – but there was very little promotion supporting it so I didn’t know what to expect from the film.
The cinematography throughout is fantastic! There are some amazing scenes – particularly action ones – that really drag you into the fast-paced moments. One scene that really stands out is when Judah and Massala are chariot racing, the camera stays with them throughout all the twists and turns and makes the danger of it stand out more. I would love to know just how they filmed those scenes! Visually everything is bright and colourful and all the clothes, hair and props are all keeping of that time.
There are two themes running throughout: the love story between Judah and his wife as well as between Massala and Judah’s sister and then there is the theme of brotherly love in which comes jealousy, competitiveness and loyalty. After Judah is exiled he believes that his family have all been killed and so seeks revenge for their lives, but having grown up as brothers the fact that Massala is the cause of their deaths puts Judah through so many conflicted emotions. Both Jack Huston and Toby Kebbell play their roles brilliantly, we journey with them through the years as they fight for their beliefs and deal with the subsequent consequences.
Morgan Freeman stars as Ilderim who helps Judah in his path for redemption and acts as a narrator throughout. Morgan is a brilliant actor and here is no different, he has something in him that captivates his audience. His voice narrating in the opening scenes is instantly recognisable and helps to settle you into the dynamics of the film.
Overall, Ben-Hur is a good film but it’s a long film that frankly could have been shortened! It stands at two hours but my goodness it feels a lot longer than that! It also starts down the whole Jesus/Pontius Pilot route which personally I don’t think needed to be there and just drags out the film more. So although visually the film is brilliant, and the cast are all great, it’s probably not one I’ll be bothered about seeing again.