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Ben-Hur Review

Review by IndiaGlitz [ Friday, August 19, 2016 • Tamil ]
Ben-Hur Review
Jack Huston, Toby Kebbell, Rodrigo Santoro, Nazanin Boniadi, Ayelet Zurer, Morgan Freeman
Timur Bekmambetov
Mark Burnett, Sean Daniel, Duncan Henderson, Joni Levin
Marco Beltrami

A remake an yesteryear Blockbuster needs more than just the courage and commitment, a raw gut to bring the historic character into a larger than life milieu making use of modern day technology to bring reality, pompousness, grandeur and of course CGI. In the attempt to collaborate all these, the director Timur has done an average job in execution. It would be unwise to call it a remake of the 1959 film which won 11 Oscar awards and rather Timur has tried to give it a original touch only failing in parts.

2016's 'Ben-Hur' is decent, but it’s not as exciting as it could have been. Yes, the chariot race sequence which is the most expected part of the movie is impressive, they need it to be, but more than that, its story is acceptable but it doesn’t do much with its characters. Maybe because its star, Jack Huston doesn’t have that much of emotion in his acting, still passable but it’s not memorable especially for a material that is a remake of an iconic film. Ben-Hur runs wrath of his sibling — who has joined the Roman army because his grandfather assassinated Julius Caesar — in this plot when he aids a Jewish supporter who tries to assassinate Pontius Pilate (Pilou Asbaek), instead of when he causes an accident involving roof tiles. Our hero is sentenced to years as a galley slave, but in yet another major departure from Wallace’s and other versions, he does not save the Roman commander and win his freedom.

Instead, Ben-Hur escapes in a shipwreck and is befriended by a cunning African chariot-racing gambler named Deus  Ilderim (Morgan Freeman). Ilderim is so impressed by Ben-Hur’s horse-whispering skills that he bribes his new apprentice’s way into the Roman circus. So the story keeps evolving in the traditional method, the problem with Timur’s execution is that it lacks the depth of the character, the rigorousness of the mainstream actor’s display of valor and grit.

It goes like this, the plot of Judah Ben Hur, a prince raised in wealth and privilege, is accused of treason by his adopted brother Messala (Toby Kibbell) who substitutes his jealousy and anger for not being born as the royal one, for revenge by becoming a blood thirsty officer in the Roman Army. Ben Hur is falsely arrested of treason because he tells Roman soldiers that he had killed one of their soldiers. He did this to protect his family whom the Romans were going to kill if the killer of the soldier did not confess. As Ben Hur is escorted to the ships, he is covered in blood and dragged on the cobblestone streets when Jesus (Robert Santoro) appears and offers him water. There’s not much else to it. The screenplay by Keith Clarke and John Ridley goes a little too far in boiling down the sprawling story to its basics, leaving the viewer with a movie that goes from action to drama and on to action sequence  and then there is this thought of  here’s what Jesus doing” with clockwork predictability

But that chariot race is almost worth the wait. It’s certainly not better than the iconic sequence that Wyler captured in the golden age without much CGI, but Timur Bekmambetov is seeking a very different kind of spectacle. Reflecting the present moment by deploying a number of interactive cameras - all but drops you onto the sands of the Circus Maximus. You’re there as the teams of horses stampede over stranded competitors, and you’re there when Ben-Hur is knocked to the ground and dragged behind his steeds at 40mph.

If each new “Ben-Hur” is a reflection of the time in which it was made, this one may remember 2016 time as a grim time for blockbuster entertainment. But while our standards may change with the wind, our natures are set in stone. However generic, forgettable and foolish this “Ben-Hur” may be, it mines some ancient strength in those words. In other words, there are no surprises here: You can see everything that's coming. It also sometimes feels like there are two different stories happening, one about Ben-Hur and one about a simple carpenter named Jesus with whom Ben-Hur continues to cross paths. And just when it seems like Ben-Hur's tale is about to end in triumph, it shifts gears completely, more strongly to a religious mode and gets rather too long. To be fair, the same can be said of the 1959 version; maybe the directors split across different eras try their best not to venture into it, but the story of this pure classic has lesser than that to offer.

The movie is also releasing in regional languages as is all other Hollywood flicks, with 700 CRORE budget, it sure is a extravaganza to be seen and relished.

Verdict:  Not as good as you would expect, still worthy a watch.

Rating: 2.75 / 5.0

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