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The movie begins with a robust overture. The after a depiction of the Nativity story, the main story begins in Jerusalem. Judah Ben-Hur is a wealthy Jewish merchant. Ben-Hur’s childhood friend, Messala, comes back home after becoming a Roman citizen and an officer in the Roman army. When Ben-Hur refuses to give the names of the other Rome-critical Jews in town, Messala leaves in a fury. Afterward, Ben-Hur frees his slave Esther as a wedding present for her arranged marriage although they’re clearly in love with each other.
When a loose tile on Ben-Hur’s roof accidently almost falls on the new Judean governor, Messala condemns and imprisons Ben-Hur and his family. Ben-Hur vows revenge. During his slave-gang march, Ben-Hur collapses and Jesus gives him a drink of water.
After 3 years as a galley slave, Ben-Hur is assigned to a Roman flagship bound for battle with the Macedonians. The ship is sunk, but Ben-Hur saves both the slaves and Arrius, the ship’s Consul. Arrius convinces Emperor Tiberius to free Ben-Hur, and Arrius adopts and assimilates him. After gaining some wealth, Ben-Hur returns to Judea to discover that Messala is competing in a chariot race witnessed by the new Judean governor, Pontius Pilate. Ben-Hur turns down an offer to compete, choosing to seek out his family. He finds Esther in Jerusalem. Esther knows Ben-Hur’s sister and mother have been cast out as lepers but, to spare his feelings, tells Ben-Hur they are dead. Seeking vengeance, he decides to enter the chariot race, where Messala is eventually mortally wounded. While dying, Messala tells Ben-Hur that his family is the valley of the lepers.
After finding his family dying, Ben-Hur takes them to see Jesus, but his march to Calvary had already begun. Ben-Hur tries to give Jesus water, and later witnesses his crucifixion. The rain that follows miraculously heals Ben-Hur’s family, and the words of Jesus lift the vengeance from his heart.
The movie’s length left me antsy, but I greatly enjoyed the proficient acting, detailed sets, and thorough presentation. I appreciated the subtle homoeroticism between Ben-Hur and Messala in light of ancient Rome’s somewhat flexible sexual culture.
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"The Epic, Historical Drama: Ben-Hur." 123HelpMe.com. 22 Oct 2019
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