This is a sheer Hollywood Epic and deserves its place in cinematic history!
The film starts with what must be "The Greatest story ever told" the birth of Christ, we see the great star shinning over Bethlehem, the three Kings and the Shepard's. This scene ends and we are introduced to Ben-Hur. Ben Hur meets his childhood friend Messala (Stephen Boyd) whom now happens to be of high position in the great Roman Army. In a story that was strongly borrowed by Gladiator in the year 2000, Ben Hur is forced into the gallows and ends up fighting for his life, because his "Friend" refuses to help him for his selfish gain. Ben Hur is played by the legendary Charlton Heston, this must be his most famous role of all time (maybe joint with Planet of The Apes). He plays this character with so much strength and conviction, yet when we see him shackled he comes across vulnerable, and we feel for this once proud man.
One clever piece of the movie making is how Charlton Heston costumes change to help put across the image of when this character has lost or gained power, for example, in the Gallows he is in rags, where as before he was in rich robes and later on in the chariot race he is once again in expensive robes to show that he has gained power once more. These robes in the race have a beautiful blue cloak making him standout. In my view the blue represents a metaphorical rebirth of this man after all he has lost and gained, and how he now has to fight for his cause.
The Cinematography is absolutely great, many scenes depicting various scenery of the country side of Nazareth (hope that is spelt right), are just mesmerising, the location scout must of been on top of his game, topped off with the masses of extras, and sprawling sets its just top notch. The color jumps out at you the Golds and the Reds of the costumes are just spectacular. Even simple sets like the Roman palace gardens and even interior of tents are beautifully crafted. This film didn't just influence Gladiator it also must of influenced Cleopatra a few years later, especially in the battle scenes on the boat, looks very similar to that particular film.
The music composed by Miklos Rozsa is breathtaking, he somehow knows just when a certain score is needed, he never intrudes on acting performances, somehow letting the music be another actor, so to speak. At the ending Ben Hur witnesses something that you just know is going to come because of the setting of the story, its a beautiful moment once again played by Heston the look in his eyes as he tries to return a favor that a complete stranger did for him earlier in the film.We witness a very last miracle just after these scenes are played out and before the ending credits.
The before mentioned chariot race, is by no doubt the highlight of the film, the sheer scale and scope of the arena, the action and drama of it, there is nothing like it in cinema. To finish off No Ben Hur means No Gladiator, it is that important and influential.The Power, The Drama, The Intensity, Charlton Heston's performance, The Color, The Spectacle, You need to see this film, yes its long but its worth it.