Set in Ancient Rome, Ben-Hur is the story of a wealthy prince by the name of Judah Ben-Hur (Jack Huston). His adopted brother Messala (Toby Kebbell) is sent away to war for a number of years, only to return as an officer, now in charge of a large number of soldiers. Shortly after returning, Judah Ben-Hur and the rest of his family are falsely accused of a crime none of them even committed. His family are killed, and Judah Ben-Hur is sent away to a life of slavery. When his ship is sunk, he winds up in the custody of Ilderim (Morgan Freeman), who gives Judah Ben-Hur an opportunity to take his revenge.
Trimming down the three hour and forty minute runtime of the 50s version, this new Ben-Hur has been revamped for a modern day audience, creating a slow paced, mildly entertaining and mindless action film. Should it be an action film? Probably not. But it is, so I guess I have to review it as one. It doesn't manage to come close to being as epic as it hopes to be, as at times it does feel pretty cheap and poorly made, but they try very hard. It just can't help but feel even more staged and theatrical than it probably is.
In terms of performances, there's nobody that's necessarily bad, per say, but nobody is fantastic, either. Jack Huston does an impressive job as Ben-Hur, but nothing about what he does feels like new ground. He gives a fairly safe performance that doesn't scream with brilliance. He is simply fine, nothing more. Toby Kebbell is a slight improvement, although a great deal of his lines in the first act feel forced. The third act is where he shines, even if there is a moment where he looks like a cat meme, and that moment made me laugh out loud in the middle of the cinema. Also, I'd like to take a moment to appreciate Morgan Freeman's dreadlocks because they were hilariously beautiful.
To sum up, Ben-Hur is a mixed bag of a movie, varying from being mildly entertaining to predictable and boring. All the sets look cheap and plastic, and the storylines don't flow all that well together, but the performances aren't horrendous and there's some fun to be had, especially during the climactic chariot race.