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The New 'Ben-Hur' Is Well Worth a Look


The classic Charlton Heston movie Ben-Hur won eleven Academy Awards, and it might seem that a new version is little in demand. But the 1959 version was about four hours long, and the new Ben-Hur is about half that and, if not Oscar caliber, is a pretty good movie in its own right. And it cost $100 million to make. So even though it's somewhat faith-based in its story, it's well worth a look.

The sets are especially fascinating, with the arena for the famous chariot race carved out of a natural mountain and a lot of the houses looking as if they were make the same way. Costumes and props and crowd scenes are lavish. There are a lot of action scenes of war, and they and the shipwreck scene and the big chariot race are exciting. The galley-slave scene is placed below decks, to very good effect.

Acting and writing are uniformly good, though these days Morgan Freeman is always given the same role to play, and we could use a little of the humor Hugh Griffith contributed in 1959.

Jesus Christ appears for brief scenes, but if there was a lot of preaching by anybody, my numb ears did not get it.

All in all, I was impressed by a movie I expected to knock. It's an epic story told with appropriate grandeur but no Hollywood glamour, well-written and well-acted by a cast that is new to me but fully up to their tasks. And for two hours I could relax without fear of comic book super heros, reckless driving, or big orange explosions.

I can't speak for others, but for me that's a lot.