Sunday, June 01, 2008

Movie review: Ben-Hur

Who can write about Ben-Hur and not mention the deservedly-famous chariot race? 47 years later, it's still the most exciting 17 minutes on film.

The movie is certainly long in places, but it's also beautifully shot. William Wyler really got the best out of his actors. Charlton Heston has never been better as the title character, Judah Ben-Hur, a Jewish prince during the Roman occupation of Judea at the time of Christ. Haya Harareet is luminous as Esther, Heston's love interest. Stephen Boyd is Messala, Judah's boyhood friend who returns from Rome to help manage the unruly province.

Judah welcomes Messala as a friend, but the Roman is more interested in ingratiating himself to the Emperor. When Judah refuses to turn informant against the mounting Jewish resistance, Messala grabs the opportunity to make an example of him. This is where the story really begins.

The plot revolves around Judah's determination to return to Judea and take his revenge on Messala. How he gets there, what he endures, his occasional path-crossing with Christ, all culminate in the famous chariot-race.

The story could end there, but as Messala says, "the race goes on."

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