Judea has a new Tribune and a new governor. The new Tribune, Messala, is an old friend of Judah's and he is excited to visit his childhood companion again. However, the two soon discover that they have grown into very different men with very different views of the world. Messala wishes Judah to betray some of his countrymen who have made hated remarks against Rome. Judah refuses and their friendship is quickly disolved. Not long after, a freak accident leads to Judah's arrest and the imprisonment of his mother and sister. Judah swears revenege as he is condemned to death in the slave galleys.
BEN-HUR won 11 Academy Awards and it is not difficult to understand why. Over forty years after it's initial release the movie is still amazing and spectaclar to watch. William Wyler won his third Best Director Oscar with BEN-HUR and rightly so: the blending of all the various elements from costume to makeup to acting to action sequences to scenery to sets is perfect, all without any CGI.
Charlton Heston has always been one of my favorite actors (I guess I enjoy his overemoting, that's usually better than no emotion at all) and he pulls off the performance of his career as Judah Ben-Hur. He never could quite pull of a performance that matched his work in BEN-HUR. And as a side note the rest of the cast is just as interesting to watch.
The movie runs for an incredible time of almost 3 and 1/2 hours. Yet, not once during that time does the film drag. It moves carefully from one point of the story to the next without ever losing continuity.
Judah's conversion to Christianity isn't as blatant as it is in the novel and other versions of the film. Yet, that in no way distracts from the power of the movie. In fact, Judah's conversion in this BEN-HUR seems much more believable and realistic. Not every Christian has a dramatic conversion experience.
BEN-HUR is a great movie. It's a tale of humanity told through the life of one man. It's filled with adventure, romance, revenege, action, drama, and even a little comedy. The action scenes are thrilling and the chariot scene has had a profound impact upon filmmaking (anyone see the pod race in THE PHANTOM MENACE). Movies don't get much better than that.
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