‘Ben Hur’ stands out as a towering classic, which has withstood the test of time.
The story narrates the experiences of Judah, a nobleman who unknowingly gets entangled in a feud with the governor of the land. He pays the price when the governor wrecks upon his family. At last, in the end he has his revenge by defeating the governor in the chariot race.
In addition to the main plot, a sub plot is also narrated in the film wherein the life of Jesus Christ is showcased. As the movie ends, you realize that you did witness the full life of Christ on the silver screen. This too, without seeing the face of Christ even once! This cinematic effect is used to perfection by the director and believe me it has played out beautifully onto the screen.
Charlton Heston seems tailor made for the role of Judah Ben Hur. He has that Roman built and looks in his eyes. Stephen Boyd as Messala, the governor, is menacing at times.
The original score of the film is haunting. It is in tune with the mood of the film, grand, reverberating and spectacular. Particularly notice the score, which comes in the background to scene where Christ is being born.
Some scenes from the film tend to stick with you long after you have seen the movie. For instance, the scene where Judah first meets Christ and the latter offers him water. And the scene where Christ is being taken for crucifixion through a sea of onlookers.
The film’s finale, particularly the chariot race would ever remain etched in my memory. The director has spared no effort in making the race look truly realistic and magnificent. William Wyler brilliantly handles the photography and the camera angles in this epic sequence. Note the instances in the race when charioteer after charioteer collides with the track edges and crushingly falls to the ground.
I agree that some critics pan the movie for its length. But the pace of the movie and the spectacle in Ben Hur is such that you never notice where the 212 minutes go once you start watching the movie.