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Review: Ben-Hur

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BEN-HUR

Timur Bekmambetov – the director of Wanted and Night Watch – now takes on a remakimagining of the 1959 Charlton Heston biblical blockbuster, Ben-Hur, starring Jack Huston (Boardwalk Empire) and Tony Kebbell (RocknRolla).

It is A.D. 33 and Judah Ben-Hur (Huston), a Jew, and his adopted brother Messala Severus (Kebbell), a Roman, are horse-racing best buds. But Harry Potter Curry has a chip on his shoulder regarding his standing in his affiliated family and so joins the Roman army to prove himself.

After three years of fighting in rain, Hermione Tikka returns to Jerusalem ripped, and a proud officer. The brothers are initially happy to see each other again, but after Judah takes the rap for a zealot his family are sheltering, Hufflepuff Naan Bread is forced to banish him to the galleys of the Roman navy.

Five years – and one sick nautical battle – later, Ben-Hur also returns to Jerusalem. Also ripped. Now evenly matched, the both-feeling-betrayed bro’s settle their differences in an insane chariot race, with one riding for the empire, and the other for a ridiculously out of place Morgan Freeman.

Timur Bekmambetov’s interests in this one were clearly not socio-political or religious. Timur turned up for the action, and has done an often jaw-dropping job. The sea battle is astounding in scope, beginning in an only-slightly-glimpsed-through-the-cracks Gareth Edwards style, before unleashing a spellbinding ships splintering set piece.

The chariot race is the best chariot race ever. There may not actually be an awful lot of other competition for that title – but it is seriously special. With dirty tricks and tactics, thundering hooves, broken bodies and flying sparks, it is a proper and thrilling bloodsport that should have been an hour longer.

Kebbell and Huston work very hard to keep the wheels on the ground throughout, pummelling through the drama beats and adding depth to what would otherwise be a shirtless long-haired bearded hot dude fest, with two great action scenes.

Contributing to the shirtless long-haired bearded hot dude fest is Rodrigo Santoro (300) as a sexy super Jesus. Ben-Hur is mostly not as religious as you would think, apart from Christ’s cameos, and a rather shoe-horned in feeling crucifixion at the very end. With those almost easter egg appearances and his near-to-the-credits “death” it amusingly almost feels like the Son of God is in a Marvel movie.

This and the “love and forgiveness, my brother” sign off may prove easy to snigger at for some, but as Christian as I am not at all I could not scoff at a message of love, compassion and understanding – in fact I welcomed it. It made a nice change from a summer of seeing our heroes hit each other in the face until they settle their differences. Plus, the names in the credits chariot race against each other.

3.5-out-of-5

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