InReview InReview

Support independent journalism

Film & TV

Film review: Ben-Hur

Film & TV

The new adrenaline-fuelled ‘Ben-Hur’ delivers plenty of action, but it can’t hold a candle to the original 1959 epic.

Comments Print article

Let’s cut to the chariot race. This retelling of the classic tale – from Timur Bekmambetov, director of Night Watch (2004) and its sequel Day Watch (2006), as well as Wanted (2008) and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (2012) – is bold enough to make wholesale changes, and arguably suffers for it.

The best things about the re-imagined Ben-Hur are that it is an adrenaline-fuelled ride; a natty tale of betrayal, revenge and redemption, with intense action and few surprises.

But it is neither as epic nor as spectacular as the 1959 film starring Charlton Heston.

The small number of original ideas in the new Ben-Hur unavoidably crumple, leaving a film that can really only defend its existence with high-octane chariot races enhanced by quality CGI and Morgan Freeman (Sheik Ilderim) providing the gravitas.

Yes, it is a Bible epic, but it certainly doesn’t dwell on its Christian message.  Judah Ben–Hur (Jack Huston), is accused of treason by his closest friend and adopted brother Messala (Toby Kebbell), a Roman tribune.  Separated from his wife, Esther (Nazanin Boniadi), Judah is forced into galley-slavery.

After five years at the oar, he returns to Roman-occupied Jerusalem to seek revenge. But a chance encounter with Jesus (Rodrigo Santoro) alters Judah’s life dramatically.

The film works as well as it does on the strength of its acting.  Jack Huston is no Charlton Heston (who is?) but he is in fine form, especially in both his physical and verbal sparring with Kebbell and others.

However, boisterous entertainment and promising storylines inexorably surrender to colourless predictability; ultimately, Judah Ben-Hur’s story is made to seem a little hum-drum. It is difficult to escape the feeling that an amazing opportunity has gone begging.

As a Biblical or even historical epic, Ben-Hur fails to deliver, but as a popcorn action flick it is a quite a treat, if only for that impressive chariot race.

Make a comment View comment guidelines

Support local arts journalism

Your support will help us continue the important work of InReview in publishing free professional journalism that celebrates, interrogates and amplifies arts and culture in South Australia.

Donate Here


Show comments Hide comments
Will my comment be published? Read the guidelines.

. You are free to republish the text and graphics contained in this article online and in print, on the condition that you follow our republishing guidelines.

You must attribute the author and note prominently that the article was originally published by InReview.  You must also inlude a link to InReview. Please note that images are not generally included in this creative commons licence as in most cases we are not the copyright owner. However, if the image has an InReview photographer credit or is marked as “supplied”, you are free to republish it with the appropriate credits.

We recommend you set the canonical link of this content to to insure that your SEO is not penalised.

Copied to Clipboard

More Film & TV stories

Loading next article