Monday, July 25, 2016

Ben-Hur (2010) - The British Mini-series

In anticipation of the August 19 release of the "re-imagining" of Ben-Hur, directed by Timur Babmembetov, my personal Ben-Hur-o-thon continues.

Watch the 2010 British mini-series version of the story! It's excellent and builds to an emotional finale. While it doesn't have the epic, broad scope of the 59er, this is an admirable, well-written, well-performed rendition whose big advantage is realistic location shots in the ksars and old buildings of Morocco. With more than three hours to work with, the mini-series builds in some re-interpretation of the story - Messala's father is a prick who pushes Messala in a power drive for the governorship of Judea - Quintus Arrius kills himself - Ben-Hur sleeps with a concubine - Ben-Hur's mother and sister do not have contagious leprosy; they just don't want Ben to see them like this. As often happens, however, the casting is largely Caucasian; Ben, Esther, and Jesus look as Jewish as Donald Trump. Sheik Ilderim, however, is played by a real Arab!

As for the classic action, the sea battle is done small-scale with three pirate ships pursuing Quintus Arrius's ship, but the encounter and sinking are gripping enough with dark lighting disguising the obvious CGI. The chariot race is realistically done without CGI - billed in the story as a small-scale affair appropriate to Judea - "the arm pit" of the Roman world. Visually, with its Moroccan setting and set decoration, it is very colorful.

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