Film review: Ben-Hur (3 out of 5)

It takes some courage to tackle what is widely regarded as one of the all-time classics.


The renowned 1959 version of Ben-Hur had most of the top stars of the day (including Charlton Heston in the title role), amazing sets, and breath-taking stunts.

In fact, down the years the story (originally a book published in 1880) has had a number of film versions, including a cartoon in 2003 with Heston voicing the lead again.

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So should you just ignore the three and a half hours of the 1959 movie and go for just over two hours of the new one?

Well, no but there again don’t just dismiss the newcomer as a cheeky pretender.

This latest incarnation moves at a faster pace and uses the latest CGI to create some incredible action.

It also doesn’t shy away from the strong Christian themes that are at the heart of the story.

Jack Huston plays Judah Ben-Hur, a Jewish prince living in Jerusalem who is falsely accused of treason by his Roman half-brother Messala Severus (Toby Kebbell) and ends up as a galley slave.

After the ship sinks he ends up befriended by Ilderim (Morgan Freeman) who races chariots.

So it builds up to the epic race with the brothers pitched against each other.

But Ben-Hur’s life also intersects with that of Jesus and he becomes one of the many people whose life is influenced by Christianity.

The chariot race is spectacular, as is the sea battle and for very different and obvious reasons the crucifixion of Jesus also leaves a lasting memory.

Some of the performances are a little low-key and I found the film ending a bit too tidied up.

But director Timur Bekmambetov certainly knows how to create an action scene, although the quieter moments are less impressive.

Overall, this new version is a worthy effort and definitely a leaner version created for a 21st Century audience.

Film details: Ben-Hur (12A) 125mins

Director: Timur Bekmambetov

Starring: Jack Huston, Toby Kebbell, Rodrigo Santoro

Screening courtesy of Horsham Capitol