Wheels fall off remake of epic action drama

Monday August 29, 2016 Written by Published in Entertainment
A chariot race scene from the movie Ben-Hur screening at the Empire Cinema alongside War Dogs. 16082639 A chariot race scene from the movie Ben-Hur screening at the Empire Cinema alongside War Dogs. 16082639

THERE ARE only a few things that are a bit different about the 2016 epic historical action drama film Ben-Hur.


One of them is the lesson on forgiveness. It’s never easy to forgive, but then it’s always the best thing to do.

So, to the makers of this latest version of Ben-Hur, I forgive you for skyrocketing my expectations after watching the movie trailer, and then letting them slowly burn out.

The fact is, Ben-Hur could be a brilliant watch if you go to the cinemas without any expectations. For those who haven’t seen the original, it could even provide some thrills.

It involves a tale which will make some sense, especially to those of the Christian faith, as it involves a heartwarming legend set in the days of the Roman Empire, during the time of Christ.

In Jerusalem, a young prince Judah Ben-Hur (Jack Huston) lives a happy life with his mother, sister and adopted brother Messala (Toby Kebbell). Judah and Messala share a great bond. But as time passes, Messala grows impatient with living in the shadow of his adopted family.

He wants to create a legacy – a legacy all of his own.

Despite Judah’s attempts to keep Messala with the family, the latter leaves Jerusalem and joins the Roman army.

Years later, he returns home as the head of the battalion and reunites with Judah. During a family dinner, Messala asks Judah to help ensure the safety of a new governor as he parades through Jerusalem. But things turn ugly when the governor is attacked.

Messala blames Judah for the incident and condemns him to working on the galleys – huge oar-powered ships manned by slaves.

Judah, who believes the rest of his family are dead, endures years of slavery before he escapes and is saved by Sheik Ilderim (Morgan Freeman), a wealthy Nubian sheik.

Sheik Ilderim trains Judah to become a charioteer and takes him to his home town Jerusalem for the annual chariot race.

For years, Messala has been the pride of the race and Judah’s only hope of vengeance lies in destroying Judah’s pride in front of his own people.

Russian director Timur Bekmambetov, best known for his 2012 movie, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, does his best to create something new from an oft-retold story but fails to produce anything magical.

Basically, this latest edition of Ben-Hur seems to be a “copy and paste” version of what has been come before, with the addition of modern computer-aided graphics.

Some of the sequences are exciting, especially during the chariot race scene. Cinematograper Oliver Wood, known for his work with the Bourne franchise, captures those moments delicately to give the chariot race the thrilling climax it deserves.

Other than that, the story is plain, the action, apart from the climax, is that great, and I didn’t think the characters were terribly convincing.

I wouldn’t call Ben-Hur a dull watch, but it isn’t very inspiring.

A better bet this weekend at the cinema is War Dogs, directed by Todd Phillips, who is known for the super-humorous Hangover series.

Happy weekend folks!

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