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Running Time:
2 hours, 4 minutes

Rating: PG-13 Parents Strongly Cautioned.

Rating Explanation:
for sequences of violence and disturbing images

Jimmy's Buzz Guide Review:
Another interpretation of this classic story is really unnecessary, still, if you haven't seen it before, this new version might be worth a look.

Additional Info:
Jack Huston ... Judah Ben-Hur
Toby Kebbell ... Messala Severus
Rodrigo Santoro ... Jesus
Nazanin Boniadi ... Esther
Ayelet Zurer ... Naomi Ben-Hur
Pilou Asbęk ... Pontius Pilate
Sofia Black-D'Elia ... Tirzah Ben-Hur
Morgan Freeman ... Ilderim
Marwan Kenzari ... Druses
Moises Arias ... Dismas
James Cosmo ... Quintus
Haluk Bilginer ... Simonides
David Walmsley ... Marcus Decimus
Yasen Atour ... Jacob


In the original Ben-Hur (the book as well as the 1959 Charlton Heston movie), Judah is enslaved and his family imprisoned because a tile fell from their roof and spooked the governor’s horse – an accident, cruelly punished by Messala as a show of strength to the Jews. This time, it’s not a loose tile but an arrow intentionally fired at Pontius Pilate by a Jewish insurgent angry at the Roman occupation. Judah had previously admonished the lad and his fellow zealots to stand up to Rome peaceably, so it makes no sense for him to help him escape and then take the blame for his assassination attempt. It also deflates his motive for wanting revenge against Messala – you know, the whole point of the story.  

Timur Bekmambetov, who’s made mostly vampire movies before this, handles the sea battle and the chariot race with aplomb (though the latter sequence pales in comparison with the legendary 1959 version), and Morgan Freeman is a welcome presence as Ilderim, the African who bets on Judah’s charioteering. Indeed, it’s Ilderim’s counsel that gets Judah to a place of “forgive and forget,” not the influence of peripheral Brazilian Jesus (Rodrigo Santoro).

The dialogue is all shallow, modern glibness, performed without distinction by dull actors. “Don’t they teach subtlety in Caesar’s army?” Judah’s sister (Sofia Black-D’Elia) asks the flirtatious Messala. (Why would they teach subtlety in the army?!) At the prospect of racing in the Roman circus (that’s what the arena was called), Judah is gravely informed, “In the circus, there is no law.” How seriously can you take a movie that says “In the circus, there is no law”? How seriously does such a movie even WANT to be taken? In the end, this plodding remake, directed by Timur Bekmambetov ("Wanted"), never gives a valid reason for its own existence.

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