Ben-Hur (1959)

Ben-Hur (1959)

Director: William Wyler
Starring: Charlton Heston, Jack Hawkins, Stephen Boyd

A Judean merchant of princely lineage is betrayed by his boyhood friend, where twists of fate (or should we say Providence?) lead him from being a galley slave to a champion charioteer, but he cannot settle in Rome while his family and revenge wait for him back in Judea.

Do you like riches-to-rags revenge stories? Well, have I got a movie for you. If you haven't seen this movie, you at least know it by reputation. You've likely seen clips of the big chariot race from the second act. I've said before that I like these big epic productions from the 50s and 60s and this film is no exception. Besides the famous chariot race, there's also a rather impressive naval battle to be had. Sets and costuming are quite good.

As for performances, you know Charlton Heston has no problem in the lead. Character-wise, I liked the initial premise of two childhood friends who'd grown apart over the years and became irreconcilable. I liked Jack Hawkins as the consul Quintus Arrius and Haya Harareet is pretty good as the love interest Esther.

The original novel is subtitled "A Tale of the Christ", but Christ Himself is somewhat at the margins though nevertheless has a significant influence on the characters and the story. I thought it was interesting that Christ's face is never shown, nor do you ever hear Him speak. Perhaps it's to keep Him from overshadowing Judah.

This is a film well worth seeing. For extra fun, compare and contrast with the '56 version of The Ten Commandments.

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