Ben-Hur

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aec.prt59182190000dvd
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Synopsis

Review Text The 1959 epic Ben-Hur won 11 Academy Awards, including Best Picture. The severely truncated 2016 remake likely won't be remembered come Oscar time, but that doesn't mean it's without merit. It certainly will appeal to faith-based audiences, who will appreciate its emphasis on Jesus' teachings of unconditional love, and to anyone else hungering for an adventurous drama in the cinematic dog days of late summer. In A.D. 25 Jerusalem, Judah Ben-Hur (Jack Huston), a wealthy Jewish prince, lives with his widowed mother Naomi (Ayelet Zurer), his sister Tirzah (Sofia Black-D'Elia), and his adopted Roman brother Messala (Toby Kebbell). The two brothers are extremely competitive, but also the best of friends. However, their close-knit bond becomes strained when Messala joins the Roman army and quickly rises through the ranks, eventually returning to Jerusalem to oversee Pontius Pilate's parade through the city. He asks Judah to use his influence to help ensure Pilate's safety against zealots who are violently opposed to the region's Roman occupation, but Judah refuses to become an informant for his brother, further undermining their relationship. Their friendship is irreparably broken when an assassination attempt is made on Pilate and Judah is blamed for it; Messala orders Judah's mother and sister to be executed, and sentences Judah to be a galley slave on a Roman warship, where he will be worked to death. But Judah survives for five brutal years and escapes following a shipwreck. Fueled by hate, he vows revenge. He soon meets a high-rolling sheik named Ilderim (Morgan Freeman in jazzy dreadlocks), who says that Messala is Rome's top-ranked chariot racer and urges him to beat his tormentor at his own game in the sports arena. Of course, this is all a prelude to the story's famous chariot race, and it doesn't disappoint: It's one of two riveting set pieces -- the other being a deadly naval battle on the Ionian Sea -- that are depicted with compelling realism and headlong momentum by director Timur Bekmambetov (Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter).This remake hails from married executive producers Mark Burnett and Roma Downey (whose previous faith-based projects include Son of God, The Bible, and The Dovekeepers), and they've turned what was originally a tale of revenge into a thoughtful meditation on redemption. That said, the 1959 version took three and a half hours to tell its story, while this account feels rushed at a shade over two hours. The filmmakers seem more concerned with delivering action scenes than developing the emotional connections between the characters. This is especially true when we're first introduced to the brothers; we're still sorting out who's who when Messala abruptly leaves to become a soldier. In addition, the film's happy ending (which was changed from the '59 version) feels tacked-on rather than earned, and the early scenes with Jesus (Rodrigo Santoro) are a bit clunky. In a summer of bloated blockbusters, this is one movie that would have benefited from an additional half hour or so to flesh out its characters and their backstories. It's also miscast: Huston is fine, but he doesn't command the screen the way Charlton Heston did or the way Russell Crowe does now. As for Kebbell, his sudden turn from loving brother to sadistic centurion isn't wholly convincing. But, again, this is partly due to the pared-down, emotionally stunted script.But enough griping. For all of its shortcomings, and there are many, the new Ben-Hur is a consistently entertaining sword-and-sandals story that takes faith and miracles seriously, and stresses that love, not hate, conquers all. Seems like a sin not to champion a movie like that. ~ Tim Holland, Rovi

Product Details

Release Date
10/24/17 
Studio
Paramount
MPAA Rating
PG13 -- Parents strongly cautioned
Length
124
Sound
  • Dolby Digital w/ sub-woofer channel
Region
  • USA & territories, Canada
Subtitles
  • English
  • French
  • Spanish
  • Portuguese

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