The first movie TC and I tackled on our AFI Movie List was Ben Hur. Known as one of the all-time epics, I knew absolutely nothing about it, other than there was a chariot race somewhere. Actually I thought that is what is was about, a Jewish chariot racer. I had no idea that Jesus Christ appears in the movie either.
I’m not going to bore you with a plot rundown, as you can read it on Wikipedia here: Wikipedia: Ben Hur.
My thoughts on the movie. The story was fantastic. It detailed betrayal, family love, revenge, loyalty and determination. The betrayal of Messala to the Hur family was heart-wrenching. The determination of Judah through the galleries and his loyalty to not only his family but his morals were admirable. The one issue I had was when he returned the ring his adoptive father gave him. While I understand Judah wanted to make a statement that he was a Jew, not a Roman, the fact remains that his adoptive father did a great deal for him and loved him. I felt as though it was betrayal against him.
The famous chariot race lived up to its reputation. Good Judah (marked of course by white horses) and Evil Messala (pulled by black horses with spikes in the spokes to do damage) were prepared to race to the death. The most exciting sequence occurred when Judah flipped over his chariot, which I found out later was not supposed to happen. The camera angles were fantastic and the action scenes of that age cannot be matched by technology of today.
Unlike more current movies, this film did not end when Judah received vengeance on Messala. I was fully expecting the movie to end after race, since it appeared Judah received justice. Afterwards, I realized the movie was not about Judah getting his revenge but about his heart being free from hate again. As said in the last scene: “And I felt His voice take the sword out of my hand”. He was now free.
Ben Hur was a terrific plot with an amazing action and heartfelt story. As TC said, It was a bit long, several scenes of soldiers marching could be cut down to make the film around three hours. Either way, it was a well-made classic and I am glad I have watched it at least once.
Next up, No. 99 Toy Story.