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April 24, 2017

Ben-Hur (2016) --- "This Guy's Thirst For Revenge Leads Him To Join A Chariot Race With Morgan Freeman As His Mentor."

Plot Summary
Its 33 A.D. Jerusalem and a crowd are gathered for a chariot race. Among the riders are Judah Ben-Hur (Jack Huston), is a prince falsely accused of treason by his adopted, and Messala Severus (Toby Kebbell), the adoptive brother and an officer in the Roman army. Judah has returned to his homeland after 5 years at sea to seek revenge but, instead, he finds redemption and learns the value of forgiveness for both yourself and the ones who wronged you.

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Hello, Movie Buffs!
     Ben-Hur has had many negative reviews, and this is partly due to two reasons. The first reason is that many viewers were expecting it to be a more action packed movie and that is not the case here. Ben-Hur is a faith-filled movie about a Jewish man of very high standing being accused of treason and then ultimately him and his family being betrayed by someone that they loved as a family; despite not being blood-related. The second reason is that the negative reviews for this movie are primarily coming from non-Christian viewers and when you think about it, our current film culture is not very Christian-centered. I find this to be somewhat confusing as to why those viewers would go see a film that they will obviously find disagreeable. Now although I have never seen the 1959 version I have heard from a number of people that it was a bad and not even historically accurate movie. As a faith believe Christian myself, if you’re going to make a movie that ends up featuring events from history, particularly those revolving around the bible, then you need to get the film as accurate as possible.
     In an interview with Collider, Director Timur Bekmambetov explained the film's adaptation: "When we say 'original Ben-Hur,' we have to be very concrete about which original version we are talking about. There were two big screen versions made, in 1925 and 1959. These are the two most famous ones. There was also a Broadway stage version at the beginning of the twentieth century. There have been a lot of television versions. The Ben-Hur story reminds me of "Romeo and Juliet," "Hamlet," and any story written by Chekhov. It is timeless, so every new generation wants to go back to it in order to adapt it to the new world. The screen version made in 1959 runs for four hours, and there is only a small number of people who can actually stay through the whole movie. It is about people different from us. And it's normal because people used to be different. The audience was different, too, as well as the cinema language the film was made in. The 1959 movie was about revenge, not about forgiveness. For me, that was the main problem, as I think that the novel is mainly about forgiveness, about the fact that a human being learned how to forgive. I got so excited about the project when I read John Ridley's script. I understood that John's vision of the story has so much light to it and that he shares the same thoughts about certain morals as I do. We talked with him about our modern world, which actually reminds me very much of a huge Roman Empire. In the Roman Empire, the most important values were pride, rivalry, power, strength, the dictatorship of power and self-love. This kind of world does not have any prospects today. Humanity has to learn how to love and forgive and this would be our only solution."
     As stated before, this is a faith-filled movie about Judah Ben-Hur who is dead set on his path for revenge, a path that quickly turns to one of forgiveness. It was a powerful story of betrayal and forgiveness. The acting, directing, and scenes were high quality and I consider myself picky on which historical films I see, because if it is not accurate then it can detract from a film based on history when you see modern reflections. Timur Bekmambetov insisted that the chariot circus is built for real, using as little computer graphics imagery as possible, because he felt it was absolutely necessary to make the chariot race look and feel realistic.
     The acting was believable and exceptional; each character was portrayed in their truest form as if the actors had lived during that period. Originally the lead role was offered to Tom Hiddleston but he chose to do Kong: Skull Island instead. However, Jack Huston as Judah Ben-Hur was outstanding and he clearly portrayed what happens to a man that has been betrayed by someone they consider family. Toby Kebbell’s as the adoptive Roman brother Messala Severus was also outstanding, he portrays a man who is haunted by his grandsire’s past mistakes and in trying to prove himself to the world he realizes that above all else, he does not have to prove himself to his family – whether in blood or not. Because he learns, alongside Judah, that forgiving someone means that you also forgive yourself.
     Overall, I found Ben-Hur movie to have a great cast and a great message. Even though this is a faith-based film, I believe that it can be appreciated as a good movie with positive elements by anyone regardless of religious background or beliefs.

“How many Romans do you even know? Have you ever had a conversation with a single one in your life? Don't spit your hate for all when you don't even know one.”
- Judah Ben-Hur, to Dismas

Final Vote
Worth Seeing:  4.2 of 5 stars
Worth Buying:  4.2 of 5 stars

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Movies Similar
The Count of Monte Cristo (2002)
Exodus: Gods and Kings (2014)
Man in the Iron Mask (1998)
Pompeii (2014)
Prince of Persia: Sands of Time  (2010)
Pan (2015)
The Passion of the Christ (2004)
Risen (2016)
The Three Musketeers (2011)

Cast & Crew
Directed by: 
   Timur Bekmambetov      

Writing Credits:  
   (NovelLew Wallace. (ScreenplayKeith R. Clarke and John Ridley.

Produced by:
    Jason F. Brown        ---    executive producer
   Mark Burnett           ---    executive producer
   Keith R. Clarke         ---    executive producer (as Keith Clarke)
   Sean Daniel              ---    producer
   Roma Downey          ---    executive producer
   Duncan Henderson ---    producer
   Joni Levin                 ---    producer
   R.J. Mino                   ---    co-producer
   John Ridley              ---    executive producer
   Enzo Sisti                  ---    executive producer

Jack Huston --- Judah Ben-Hur
Toby Kebbell --- Messala Severus
Rodrigo Santoro --- Jesus
Nazanin Boniadi --- Esther
Ayelet Zurer --- Naomi Ben-Hur
Pilou Asbæk --- Pontius Pilate
Sofia Black-D'Elia --- Tirzah Ben-Hur
Morgan Freeman --- Ilderim
Marwan Kenzari --- Druses
Moises Arias --- Dismas
James Cosmo --- Quintus
Haluk Bilginer --- Simonides
David Walmsley --- Marcus Decimus
Yasen Atour --- Jacob
Francesco Scianna --- Kadeem
Gabriel Lo Giudice --- Elijah
Denise Tantucci --- Avigail
Jarreth J. Merz --- Flores
Iaon Gunn --- Gestas
Dato Bakhtadze --- Hortator
Jay Natelle --- Gesius
Maurice Lee --- Simon Cyrene
Stefano Scherini --- Peter
Alessandro Giuggioli --- Judas

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