#100 – Ben-Hur or The Fast and the Furious: Chariot Drift

So it’s Friday night, time for excitement. Crack open a beer, sit back and watch 1959’s epic film Ben-Hur. Oh yeah, I know how to live it up right.

Now it’s Saturday night and I’m finally finishing this film up. What can I say, it’s a long, long movie. But overall, not bad.

So the plot, one fairly easy to follow – Anglo-American actor Charlton Heston plays the Jewish prince Judah Ben-Hur.  Things are going okay for him, until one day when he’s hanging out with his Roman buddy from days past who says, “Rome is awesome,” and Ben-Hur is all, “Um, maybe not, but let’s wait this out.” His buddy doesn’t like this at all, so he enslaves him and imprisons his mother and sister.

Ben-Hur gets super mad and vows to seek vengeance. Spoiler alert – he gets it in the end but realizes maybe there’s more to life and we all learn a valuable lesson. Jesus is around too to help the story out, but it’s subtle. There’s more to the story than that, but our friends at Wikipedia and IMDB do a much better job than I do.

It’s obvious why this film is on the list with 11 Academy Awards, unmatched until Titanic (#83 on the list, very excited about that one). But more than that, this is a truly epic film. Grandiose, majestic, spectacle – yeah, all of those things.

Honestly, when you think about the day and age this was made, it’s incredible. The chariot race alone – the best part of the movie, hands down – used 15,000 extras on an 18 acre set with 78 trained horses and actors that were actually racing honest-to-god chariots. Impressed? I know I was.

So all in all, simple plot, gorgeous set and truly epic sequences.

What I didn’t like much?

Well, in this endeavor I’m really trying not to be overly critical, which I’m told I can be from time to time. This is especially true of lengthy films. So let me just say that I thought this film was very good, a deserving classic and all that an epic should be.

However, if your patience is like most of my generation, it may be hard to sit through. You can imagine with a simple plot and three and a half hours to fill, there’s going to be some dragging. Pretty and carefully crafted dragging, but dragging nonetheless.

The other thing that took me out of the movie from time to time was the acting. Now, I don’t know much about acting, granted. But when I see Charlton Heston say a line, any line, it seems incredibly hammy. His “Is this the way into town?” has the same melodrama and fervor as “Take your stinking paws off me, you damned dirty ape!”

At the same time, you can kind of see why Heston is such a legend. Not only did he take it upon himself to learn how to drive a chariot, he wasn’t too hard on the eyes either.

Conclusion – if you like splendid cinematography, a dash of religion and a whole lot of Heston, this is the film for you. If you don’t, see it anyway if you’ve got four hours to kill.

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