Director: Timur Bekmambetov
Writer: Lew Wallace (based on the novel by), Keith R. Clarke (screenplay), John Ridley (screenplay)
Stars: Jack Huston, Nazanin Boniadi, Ayelet Zurer, Sofia Black-D’Elia
Runtime: 123 min
Genre: Adventure, Drama, History
Released: 19 Aug 2016
Storyline:A crowd is gathered for a chariot race. Among the riders are Judah Ben-Hur (Jack Huston) and his adopted brother Messala Severus (Toby Kebbell). As they prepare to ride, the two challenge each other before riding off.
Eight years earlier, Judah and Messala were very close. Judah is a Jew while Messala was born a Roman. They are seen racing their horses together, until Judah’s horse throws him off and injures him. Messala carries Judah back home. Their mother Naomi (Ayelet Zurer) is displeased with their actions. Judah’s sister Tirzah (Sofia Black-D’Elia) is in love with Messala, and he feels the same, but Naomi doesn’t approve of them being together.
The Zealots are plotting against the Romans. As this happens, Judah meets Jesus of Nazareth (Rodrigo Santoro). Jesus spreads a message of compassion and forgiveness. Judah also meets a woman named Esther (Nazanin Boniadi) and falls in love with her.
Messala runs off to join the Roman army without saying goodbye to Judah. Over the next three years, Judah writes to his brother and tells how Esther was set to marry another man, and Judah was about to let her go, but he ran after her and managed to get her back. They have since been married.
As bodies are trampled and dragged on the track, and squealing horses topple in clouds of dust amid the deafening clamor of amplified hoofbeats, the 10-minute scene powerfully captures the savagery of life-or-death spectacle and the delirium of a mob swooning with blood lust.
To a contemporary audience, conditioned to accept previously unimaginable degrees of screen and television carnage, this “Ben-Hur” feels disturbingly and appropriately up to date. What makes it all the more horrific is the film’s lack of a strong redemptive counternarrative and the absence of even a pretense of holiness. At the very end, it timidly tries to preach a message about revenge and forgiveness, but its heart just isn’t in it. Violence is its calling card.
The contestants — Judah Ben-Hur (Jack Huston), a Jewish prince in Roman-occupied Jerusalem, and his adoptive brother, Messala (Toby Kebbell), who falsely accuses Judah of treason and leaves him to rot on a Roman slave ship — were embodied in the 1959 movie by Charlton Heston and Stephen Boyd. Playing Judah, Heston reached his career pinnacle as a sweaty symbol of virtuous heroic masochism and super-masculine beefcake with a halo.