Reviewed by: Raphael Vera
Lew Wallace’s novel, Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ, has been called “the most influential Christian book of the nineteenth century”. He was not saved when he began the novel, but during the research and writing he became convinced of Christ’s deity. Wallace’s grave marker says, “I would not give one hour of life as a soul for a thousand years of life as a man.”
How did Jesus Christ die? Answer
Was Jesus Christ only a legend? Answer
Is Jesus Christ a man, or is he God? Answer
If Jesus is God, how could he die? If Jesus died on the cross, then how can he be alive today? Answer
Was Jesus Christ God, manifest in human form? Answer
Is Jesus Christ really God? Answer
If Jesus was the Son of God, why did He call Himself the Son of Man? Answer
Jack Huston … Judah Ben-Hur
Morgan Freeman … Sheik Ilderim
Sofia Black-D'Elia … Tirzah Ben-Hur, Judah’s sister
Toby Kebbell … Messala, a Roman army officer
Ayelet Zurer … Naomi Ben-Hur, Judah’s mother
Rodrigo Santoro … Jesus Christ
Nazanin Boniadi … Esther, a Jewish slave
Haluk Bilginer … Simonides, a loyal Jewish servant to Ithamar, Judah’s birth father
Pilou Asbæk … Pontius Pilate
Marwan Kenzari … Druses, a Roman captain
Moises Arias … Gestas, a teenage Jewish zealot
Yasen Atour … Jacob
David Walmsley … Marcus Decimus
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|Director||Timur Bekmambetov—“Wanted” (2008), “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” (2012), “Night Watch” (2004)|
Mark Burnett (husband of Roma Downey)
Film Production Consultants
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Review: “Ben-Hur” (1959)
“In the time of the Messiah…”, and so begins the story of a Hebrew Prince named Judah Ben-Hur (Jack Huston) and the Roman, Messala (Toby Kebbell), that he would call brother. Messala had been adopted into Jerusalem’s Royal house of Hur and raised as their own, after he had been orphaned as a child, but, one day, left them in order to seek his destiny serving in the Roman army.
Years of fighting as a soldier of Rome will give Messala the chance to redeem his disgraced family name, rise through the ranks of the Roman army and return with the stature and power he left the house of Hur to establish. However, when he returns to Jerusalem, his growing admiration for the “glory of Rome,” coupled with his personal ambition, will put him at odds with his former “brother,” cost him the burgeoning love he has for Ben Hur’s sister Tirzah (Sofia Black-D'Elia) and risk his very soul in the process.
Beginning with the start of the tale’s climactic chariot race, wherein Messala vows to end his erstwhile brother’s life on the track, the film then flashes back to all the events that led up to this tragic confrontation. Those who have grown up seeing the 1959 version of “Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ” starring Charlton Heston will be astonished by some of the changes in both the characters, their stories, and the visuals, the last of which may be a major area of concern for filmgoers.
Violence: Heavy. Men are shown fighting, beaten, and bloody throughout the film. The film does not spare the audience from witnessing some of Messala’s battles, in all their blood-thirsty glory, and there are several scenes showing a fight’s aftermath, with dead bodies strewn about the landscape and men lifeless floating in the water. A young man’s open wound is treated by a knife heated by fire, and there are more than a few scenes of the brutality Rome was known for. Men are cut down by swords, arrows, spears, set on fire, trampled and crushed, one while being chained to the bow of a ship (blood is shown spraying onto the screen).
We are also briefly witness to some of our Lord’s heartbreaking final hours leading up to and including his crucifixion as part of Almighty God’s plan to pay the price for mankind’s sins. The scene’s of violence and death make this film something that I urge parents take seriously—and hopefully prevent young and impressionable minds from seeing.
Language: Minor. “Hell” is uttered once, and the Lord’s name is taken in vain three times—“My G*d” (2), “Oh My G*d” (1). There is one vague line about some women being abused that will likely not be understood fully by children, but whose sinister intent will be recognized by others.
Sex/Nudity: Mild. Some kissing is shown, usually on the cheek, and a husband and wife are seen in bed together from the shoulders up, but nothing is visible.
”Ben-Hur” is an often interesting film, told during a barbaric time of human history, that manages to touch upon some powerful biblical themes including that of vengeance, love, but most of all mercy and forgiveness.
Vengeance: Ben-Hur is bent on revenge for all the loss and pain he has endured at Messala’s hands. The Word of God is clear on this and offers a far better path, if we would only trust Him.
“Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary:
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
…if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Romans 12:19-21
Love: Among all the themes that run through “Ben-Hur,” perhaps the most prevalent is that of love—the love that Esther, a Jewish slave (Nazanin Boniadi) born in the house of Hur, has always had for Ben-Hur, the brotherly love that blinds Ben-Hur to the changes in Messala, and, lastly, the love that, once an essential part of Messala, now with its absence threatens to bring him to ruin. No greater definition of love has ever been given than that which we find in the letter to the church in Corinth:
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” —1 Corinthians 13:4-7
Mercy: Ben-Hur disagrees with the methods of the zealots who are in violent resistance to Rome, yet still tends to one of them brought to him wounded. Sheik Ilderim (Morgan Freeman) is seen performing a costly act of charity that seems somewhat out of character for the fortune-focused Arab. Lastly, Esther finds a new life, after hearing the words of Jesus and shares her joy by spreading the Word and helping those less fortunate.
However, the most powerful example of mercy shown in the film is when the thief/zealot hanging on his own crucifix to the right of our Lord admonishes the other crucified thief, while admitting to his own guilt.
Despite a few historical inaccuracies, less than credible character motivations (specifically regarding the mother and sister’s fate), and a sometimes abrupt and awkward narrative, “Ben-Hur” is a reasonable take on a familiar story that will likely have more appeal with the current generation, unfamiliar with the stellar 1959 version, let alone the beaufifully written, yet lengthy tome that is the original source material. The surprisingly redemptive final act alone makes it worth the price of admission, and so I recommend this film for both teens and adults alike.
Violence: Heavy to extreme / Profanity: Minor / Sex/Nudity: Mild
See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.