Director: Timur Bakmambetov
Cast: Jack Huston, Toby Kebbel, Rodrigo Santoro, Morgan Freeman, Nazanin Boniadi
Set in Roman-occupied Jerusalem, Ben-Hur has the story that most of the people are already aware of. A Jewish noblemen Ben Hur (Jack Huston), falsely accused of treason, is sold into slavery by his adaptive brother Messala (Toby Kebbel). After years of slavery under Romans and surviving a life full of never-ending drum beats, he’s finally rescued by a Sheikh (Morgan Freeman). With Jesus making small cameos in the film, Ben Hur is finally convinced that he should take his revenge in the field and not with violence. The film begins and ends with a chariot race, which is probably the only scene you’ll realise is worth watching.
Considering the fact that this is the fifth adaptation of the 1880 novel Ben Hur: A Tale Of the Christ Love followed by a series of silent films, the 11 Academy Awards-winning 1959 film and then the 2003 animated film of the same name, there’s one question that’ll bother you before the movie and more after you end up spending money on the film. Was this ‘re-adaptation’ with ‘new imagination’ really required?
Apart from scenes here and there, even the 3D action-packed sequences fail to pack a punch. Scenes where Judah is banished to work as a slave or the chariot race that is successful enough in giving you an adrenaline rush are commendable but other than those, there’s nothing worth applauding here. It’s only towards the end that the chariot race draws in when you whole-heartedly decide to ignore the fact that Judah really enters the arena in a white shirt and trousers while every other competitor is perfectly protected in their uniforms!
Jack Houston’s gentle-eyed, solemn performance will move you, but only at times. He might have a charming personality but then that doesn’t really help for a role as magnificent as this one. Tony is excellent in his portrayal of a man who is ready to go extra-length to achieve what he wants. The well-known actor Morgan, who assays the character of an Arab Sheikh is impressive with his punch lines such as ‘You can’t beat them, just outlive them’ or while betting his money against Romans’ pride but we expected so much more out of him!
Looks like director Timur not just faired mediocre at the story telling level but also at the visual levels. One might expect tons of stunning visuals in a film as majestic as this one, but it has none. Even 3D fails to add weight to such muted colours and bumpy performances.
For people who haven’t watched any of the previous adaptations, this might prove to be a better pick than Bollywood period dramas like ‘Mohenjo Daro’ but for those who have, it‘ll just be disappointing.