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Sunday, July 23, 2017

Ben-Hur (2016)

This is a movie made in the epic tradition, but without the The celebrated 1959 version of the saga, once the most-Oscar-winning-picture-of-all-time, clocked in at almost four hours. The silent version was about two hours and twenty minutes, no marathon but still longer than average for its time. This movie, on the other hand, gets the job done in pretty much exactly two hours.  This version of the strange novel concocted by Union Army General Lew Wallace in 1880 entitled "A Tale of the Christ", begins as Judah Ben-Hur (jack Huston) and his onetime brother Messala (Toby Kebbell) are facing off in a chariot race.  As Ethan says it is the Moses and Ramses story retold, with Messala as the adoptee and Judah as the prince.  Messala goes off to fight with the Romans, and comes home as a conqueror while Judah becomes enslaved. The history is completely off base.  Jesus is alive throughout much of the story, but the Romans are fighting under  Caesar (it was Tiberius).  Pontius  Pilate probably was a tyrant (this is the time between client kings where there was a Roman governor, which led to the Jewish revolt), and certainly the Roman obsession with blood sport is accurate.  This is not particularly bothersome, it turns out. In the net plus department, once the action really gets going, it’s quite good. The sea battle during which Judah makes his escape is a really effective bit of action movie making—one of those scenes that compels you to exhale when it’s finally over. It’s frantic and loud, but not particularly over-the-top.  The chariot race of the cover is spectacular.

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