In 25 AD,Judah Ben-Hur, a Jew in ancient Judea, opposes the occupying Roman empire. Falsely accused by a Roman childhood friend-turned-overlord of trying to kill the Roman governor, he is put into slavery and his mother and sister are taken away as prisoners. Three years later and freed by a grateful Roman galley commander whom he has rescued from drowning, he becomes an expert charioteer for Rome, all the while plotting to return to Judea, find and rescue his family, and avenge himself on his former friend. All the while, the form and work of Jesus move in the background of his life...
Majestic in scope and story telling.
The truth is, is that Ben-Hur deserved every award that was showered upon it. It's a titanic film both in structure and scope. It doesn't need me to go over old ground about how much the film cost to make, the number of extras, the number of sets and etc, it's now folklore that this film could have bankrupted MGM such was the investment, but they needn't have worried since the film went on to make 40 million and still counting.
Every cent spent was worth it because it's a magnificent film, the kind that you can get swept away with, the minute the overture starts you feel little tingles as the hairs on your arms stand up on end, you are aware that for over three hours director William Wyler and lead actor Charlton Heston are going to own you.
The story centres around Judah Ben-Hur (Heston) who through his staunch loyalty to the Jewish race falls out with his dear Roman friend Messala (Stephen Boyd). He is dispatched to be a slave in the galleys and swears revenge on Messala. After pirates attack the ship he is slaved on, he manages to escape and in the process he saves Roman Admiral Quintus Arrius (Jack Hawkins) and this sets Juda on his destiny to enact revenge on his old friend as Quintus makes him a citizen of Rome.
It sounds so simple yet it's a story of the highest order because crucial to the film's core strength is Judah's encounters with Christ, and it's only during the harsh and upsetting final reel that we realise the whole point of the film. There's also strong themes involving family love and loyalty, friendships formed or broken under race and creed banners, and of course religious beliefs and all that comes with that kettle of fish...
It's epic, it's simply beautiful, it's actually essential viewing for any serious cinema fan, the film's set pieces are still wondrous even today. You will marvel at the chariot race (a stunning 20 minutes long), you will hoist the flag during the pirate attack, and if you have the emotion in you? You will be hit with sombre silence as Christ is crucified. Come the closing music I personally feel like clapping such is the appreciation I have for this truly wonderful film, if you haven't seen it then make a point of doing so because everything that is great about cinema is right here. 10/10
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer by William Wyler, Lew Wallace, Karl Tunberg, Gore Vidal.
Stars: Charlton Heston, Jack Hawkins, Stephen Boyd.
Genres: Adventure, Drama
Keywords: christianity middle east based on novel or book roman empire jewish life jew persecution miracle roman prince chariot race leprosy jerusalem, israel ancient rome governor politics epic love friends remake revenge religious conversion religion redemption judaism historical fiction period drama dungeon galley hatred sheikh sea battle jewish family galley slave false inprisonment childhood sweetheart salvation 1st century jesus christ judea subjugated people
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