Review by Justin Waldman for Mr. Will Wong
From Director Timur Bekmambetov (Wanted and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter) and Screenwriters Keith Clarke and John Ridley, comes the epic tale and reimagining of Ben-Hur. Despite having a classic pedigree, this latest incarnation falls flat through and through. The saving grace however comes in a shakily-shot Third Act which centers on a chariot race and a fantastic score by Marco Peltrami.
Our Movie starts off with our protagonist Judah Ben-Hur (Jack Huston) and his adopted Roman brother Messala Severus (Toby Kebbell). Since their home is Jerusalem and the Romans are at war with the world, the brothers butt heads. Messala leaves Jerusalem to assure that his name will no longer be tied to his grandfather’s and make a true name for himself. Upon returning to Jerusalem, Messala brings the Romans with him, and a stow away that Judah took-in that is against the Romans, fires target onto the arriving Romans and kills one of them. In retaliation, Messala must act and does so by torturing his adoptive family and sending Judah to sea. Years go by before Judah manages to get away from the sea where he meets Ilderim (Morgan Freeman) and learns to race chariots and begs him to seek vengeance on his brother, Messala.
The biggest problem with Ben-Hur is that the 1959 version is such a classic that no matter how good this Remake is, it could never truly live-up to its original. However, given similar source material this time around, our two leads fail to deliver and engage the audience. The final Act, the big chariot race, should have been something spectacular, but sub-par editing and misplaced cuts have the Film faltering where it counted most. More than enough times, we would find ourselves in what felt like a pivotal moment, which gratingly would end abruptly, cutting to a completely different plot point.
Paramount Pictures Canada releases BEN-HUR in theatres on Friday, August 19, 2016.