Adopted brothers Judah Ben-Hur and Messala (Jack Huston and Toby Kebbell respectively) are from different backgrounds but love each other as brothers regardless. Messala feels rejected and soon joins the ranks of the Roman armies, becoming a general while Judah becomes a slave.
Now before y’all let out the collective groan and sigh let’s be clear on one thing. Before the 1959 movie, there was a book, then there was a play which I heard was astonishing, then a few more movies and limited TV series and so on. So does that mean its ok for yet again another remake? Hell no!
So here we are yet again, another remake, with massive words such as HONOUR and LOYALTY being thrown about the trailers and your usual BWAAAANG sound accompanying it. To be honest, I had no idea this movie was even being made and it’s been a long time since I have seen the Heston version so no comparisons will be made here.
So the film begins with a slight tease of the infamous chariot race. Just before it starts we cut to a few years earlier, establishing the relationships between brothers and…well mainly the brothers. Yeah here and there another character will pop in to help move the plot along or give some insight into the characters psyche and reasoning behind their actions.
For instance, Messala is constantly tormented by his adopted mother Naomi, (Ayelet Zurer) which drives him out to join the ranks of the Roman army.
Hur himself is merely a pacifist but once his brother returns a few years later and a botched assassination attempt of Pontius Pilot himself (Pilou Asbaek) it’s off to slavery for a good batch of the film.
Here’s where it gets interesting. Throughout most of the movie we’re given glimpses of action, a few battle sequences here, some fights there but nothing concrete. I guess it’s a buildup to the chariot sequence. The ocean battle itself is done by having the central focus be inside the ship itself with the Hur and the audience catching just a few glimpses of the carnage outside. A wise choice if I’m completely honest, how many water battles have we seen? A lot, but when shot and displayed this way, I have to give Timur Bekmambetov some credit for trying something fresh. Anyone that’s seen his Russian films Night Watch and Day Watch will know how he can let the action and visuals run wild.
Technically and visually, there are hardly any flaws with the film itself. The set design does stand out, the action is edited swiftly. I watched it in 3D and although it didn’t add much at all to the overall picture, I’m just glad it didn’t detract either.
Dazzling visuals at times but that’s not enough to hold an age old story that has been told again and again and quite recently too. Doesn’t bring anything new but does give us some well-choreographed action sequences and Morgan Freeman in dreadlocks. Need I say more?
Director: Timur Bekmambetov
Starring: Jack Huston, Toby Kebbell, Nazanin Boniadi
Release Date: 9th September 2016