Being a movie buff, it pains me to say that I’ve never made the time to sit down and watch the 1959 original film of Ben-Hur, but it is something on my to-do list. Meanwhile I’ve had the chance to at least see this year’s remake of it with the Ben-Hur Blu-ray from Paramount Pictures. Some viewers may not like how the film comes to a close, but I found it to be an interesting and sometimes epic journey of revenge as well as finding one’s self and redemption.
Being set in ancient Jerusalem, the story follows a Jewish noble named Judah Ben-Hur (Jack Huston) and his adopted brother Messala (Toby Kebbell) who become the best of friends and closer than brothers despite circumstances. Even while being part of a loving family, Messala still doesn’t feel like he belongs and sets out to join the Roman army. Three years pass and he returns home to inform Judah that Pontius Pilate will be arriving in Jerusalem and needs his help to make sure nothing happens to him. But as with any good story, something does happen in the form of an assassination attempt on Pilate which causes Messala to arrest Judah and take away his family and loved ones after he takes the fall for the crime. Needless to say, this drives a wedge between the two brothers and Judah plans to retake what is his with the help of Ilderim (Morgan Freeman), a Nubian Sheik that trains Judah as a charioteer to race against Messala where he can finally have his revenge.
Director Timur Bekmambetov is no stranger to action, so all of it that follows is as good as they come. But between the fights and chariot races is also a touching tale of redemption through forgiveness that might be a tough pill to swallow for most viewers. Those who decide to see it through to the end and accept it will come away with a rewarding experience while others will most likely turn their nose up at it. I for one enjoyed it even though I do wish it could’ve gone another way, and to see it unfold in high definition was a highlight. The visuals are detailed and come through nicely as does the audio that fills your room with a perfect mix of dialogue, music, and rumbles of bass when needed.
Once the race is over, you can take a look at the special features starting with “Ben-Hur: The Legacy” that goes into the Lew Wallace novel and bringing it to life both in this film and the 1959 version. “The Epic Cast” has a couple of interviews with the cast members as they share their thoughts and experiences of the movie, and “A Tale for Our Times” goes over filming the project and all the work that went into doing so. Rounding out the extras is “The Chariot Race” that details the physically demanding efforts that went into bringing the most epic part of the movie to life, and there’s a few deleted scenes as well as some music videos to check out in the end.
Those looking for a touching and sometimes epic journey into the world of revenge, as well as fans of swords-and-sandals movies will want to hop in the chariot that is Ben-Hur. While some may not care of the touchy parts of forgiveness and redemption in a revenge tale, those who take in the film, warts and all, will find a hidden gem in 2016’s film releases.