Ben-Hur 2016 – Rodrigo Santoro, as Jesus, nails it – The DVDfever Cinema Review

Ben-Hur 2016

Anyhoo, with Messala going in the army for three years, and Judah ending up rowing a galley for five years, that accounts for the eight-year gap. Oddly, five years on, he’s still sat in the same seat. Whenever I’ve worked in an office, we’ve moved desks every few months. And (slight spoiler about the galley ship, if you haven’t seen any previous version of this), so skip the next paragraph…

When Judah’s alone on the raft by himself, it’s like Life of Pi without the lion. And I thought they might strike up a song while rowing the boat. After all, it might get boring with the beating of the drum, but certainly not for the drum-beater. Even when he got injured, he was so dedicated to his craft that he continued to beat it all the more! It’s like the henchman of a Bond baddie, still ready to lay down their life, even when it’s late in the film and the jig is clearly up!

And for another song, with Judah always being referred to as ‘a Jew’, and with Messala enjoying their friendship early on, I half expected him to start singing Family Guy's I Need A Jew .

James Cosmo, as Quintus – the co-starred with Pilou Asbaek in the superb BBC comedy drama Stag – but I don’t think they shared screen time in that, and they certainly don’t here, as Cosmo is on the galley ship, being bossy, telling everyone what to do, while Pilou is usually out and about Roman’ around… (I’m here all week, tip your waitress)

Elsewhere in the cast, Morgan Freeman plays Morgan Freeman, for a change.


Jesus: “Have some water”
Judah Ben-Hur: “Turn it into wine, mate. I’m gasping!”

Now, on the subject of remakes. The 1959 blockbuster is often seen as ‘the original Ben-Hur‘, when it isn’t, but when a film’s won such critical acclaim and can’t be rivalled (according to all concerned, even though I haven’t yet seen it), why remake it? There’s been loads of versions of the Titanic story, for example, but after James Cameron’s 1997 Oscar-winning epic, can you imagine someone else attempting it again and on that scale? It just cannot compete!

That said, in Ben-Hur 2016, the chariot race is worth a watch in this film, but there’s a fair bit of clock-watching before you get to that point.

The end credits feature a drippy ballad, when the song I’d prefer (and much more upbeat) would be Ben Folds Five, where he thinks about joining the army . In that song, he ‘grew a moustache and a mullet’, whereas Messala doesn’t change his appearance at all. Well, other than accessorising with that Roman helmet.

Note: The film is a 12-cert because of some blood & accidents in the chariot race, I would expect, but there’s nothing a younger child couldn’t see. That said, they probably wouldn’t care about this particular film. Take them to Kubo and the Two Strings on Friday, instead.

And if you like end credits, there’s not a lot going on of interest, but the initial crew credits ‘race’ around the chariot track, which is quite amusing. Unfortunately, as I’ve mentioned before, the lights went up the moment they started thus shining on the screen and impacting on the effect those credits had, which was bad. No cleaners showed up, though, which was good.

Like I said, I haven’t seen any version of this story before, but while Jack Huston and Toby Kebbell are merely okay, Rodrigo Santoro, as Jesus, nailed it!*

(*I’ll be here all month, keep tipping your waitress)

Ben-Hur 2016 is available to pre-order on Blu-ray, but not yet on DVD. Also, click on the poster for the full-size version.

Kermode Uncut: Ben-Hur

Detailed specs:

Running time: 125 minutes
Studio: Entertainment Film Dists Ltd
Cinema: Vue, Lowry, Salford Quays
Year: 2016
Format: 2.35:1 (Arri Alexa)
Released: September 7th 2016
Rating: 5/10

Director: Timur Bekmambetov
Producers: Mark Burnett, Sean Daniel, Duncan Henderson and Joni Levin
Screenplay: Keith R Clarke and John Ridley (based on the novel by Lew Wallace)
Music: Marco Beltrami

Judah Ben-Hur: Jack Huston
Messala Severus: Toby Kebbell
Jesus: Rodrigo Santoro
Esther: Nazanin Boniadi
Naomi Ben-Hur: Ayelet Zurer
Pontius Pilate: Pilou Asbæk
Tirzah Ben-Hur: Sofia Black-D’Elia
Ilderim: Morgan Freeman
Druses: Marwan Kenzari
Dismas: Moises Arias
Quintus: James Cosmo
Simonides: Haluk Bilginer
Marcus Decimus: David Walmsley
Jacob: Yasen Atour
Kadeem: Francesco Scianna
Elijah: Gabriel Farnese
Avigail: Denise Tantucci
Flores: Jarreth Merz
Gestas: Iaon Gunn
Hortator: Dato Bakhtadze
Sick Oarsman: Yorgos Karamihos

Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.


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