Messala is the adopted brother of Judah Ben-Hur and he falsely accuses Judah of treason against Rome. Judah is a Jewish prince and Messala is a Roman army officer. A young zealot boy needed medical attention and he has been staying with Judah and the family. He shoots an arrow from the balcony and kills a Roman soldier. Judah accepts the blame and he is sentenced to serve on the ships of Rome in the galley as a rower. His mother and his sister are sentenced to crucifixion. Judah spends five years plying the oars for Rome. There is an intense sea battle with Phoenician ships and his ship sinks. He is able to float on a ship mast and make it to shore. Sheik Ilderim finds him and he is trained as a chariot racer.
Times are very difficult during this period between the Jews and the Romans. There are rebellions by the Jews and brutal push back by the Romans. The chariot races are very tense and exciting!! All the action goes by very quickly. The cost for production was $100 million plus marketing and distributions costs. The gross was $94.1 million so this is considered to be a bomb? I found it to be right on the mark time wise, the story is interesting, the characters good and spectacular action with the races. 3 1/2* (I liked this movie)
123 min, Action directed by Timur Bekmanbetov with Jack Huston, Toby Kebbell, Rodrigo Santoro, Nazanin Boniadi, Aylet Zurer, Pilou Asbaek, Sofia Black-D’Elia, Morgan Freeman, Marwan Kenzari, Moises Arias.
Note: Imdb 5.7 out of 10, 25% critic 55% audience on Rotten Tomatoes, Roger Ebert 3*, Amazon 3.9* out of 5* with 876 reviews.
Special Note: Filmed in Basilicata, Lazio, Apulia, Italy and Mecca Hills, California. The lead role of Judah was offered to Tom Hiddleston but he chose the role of James Conrad in Kong: Skull Island of 2017. The original version of Ben-Hur from 1959 is 89 minutes longer. Bekmanbetov insisted that the chariot arena be real and CGI only used where necessary. Freeman has very unusual hair and elaborate costumes for his role as the Sheik!!