Lew Wallace’s 19th century novel, Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ, inspired two silent movies in the early decades of the 20th century and the magnificent 1959 film starring Charlton Heston in the lead role. Almost everyone agrees that Heston was born to play the part, and who can forget the drama and excitement of the chariot race with which the movie comes to its climax?
Roma Downey and Mark Burnett have produced a new instantiation of the story, a streamlined version of the 1959 film. Like its predecessor, this one features a charismatic actor (Jack Huston) as Ben-Hur, plenty of visual grandeur, and yes, a stunning chariot race, depicted this time with the most up to date camera technology and CGI virtuosity. But what principally differentiates it from the Heston “Ben-Hur” is its greater stress on the strange power of Christ to bring about forgiveness—an emphasis, I must say, much needed in the cultural context of the present moment. Read more