Tuesday, 20 September 2016

REVIEW - BEN-HUR (TIMUR BEKMAMBETOV)


In the name of all that is holy, who thought this was a good idea? Ben-Hur, that most epic of epic stories, reduced to a cut-rate, bargain basement exercise in empty bombast. This was once a tale of literally biblical proportions, and while I'm not one to lament a conscious step away from religious reverence in any aspect of life, that this sorry film has squandered all awareness of such magnitude is plainly regrettable. And yet it maintains its piety, neither diluted nor negated by its high-octane extravagance, itself a quality wielded with brute force and carelessness. The film's key misstep is in its fundamental misunderstanding of what kind of film it needs to be. Timur Bekmambetov may have appeared the right man for the job of re-imagining this classic tale, and while Ben-Hur certainly strives for the bold, callous bluster of his best films, it lacks both the resolve and the means to execute these intentions appropriately. Cheap effects and a lack of opportunity for genuine innovation seem to stifle Bekmambetov, and one instantly identifies the folly in his hiring: this uncompromising stylist with this monumental material requires more than what modest resources with which he's saddled here. And yet their modesty seems anything but, considering the inevitable failure of such an enterprise; Ben-Hur as a sporadic action film, with a cast of tanned white people and C-listers Jack Huston and Toby Kebbell in the principal parts? Who thought this was a good idea? God knows I didn't.