Unlike the Heston epic, Christ makes just three cameo appearances. However, this is not a story of religious faith. When present, religion is subordinated in the plot by the movie director to create an intriguing modern tale. This is not a for children-recommended epic, but it is a mature, detailed-filled, contemporary interpretation of the Lew Wallace classic.
At times taking great historical license, this is the story of the Hur family: Their suffering, survival, and triumph over Roman political oppression in 1st Century C.E. Jerusalem. Deeper, this is also a tale of two individuals: one Jewish (Judah) and one Roman (Messala) and their interpersonal bonding as children and their adult psycho-political conflicts. Ultimately, this is an story of power: The Conquerors (Rome personified in the Agrippas, Arias, Pilate, and Tiberias) and The Conquered (namely, the Hur Family, Greeks, Jews, slaves, and other residents of 1 Century C.E. Jerusalem). .
As adult-level drama, the principal actors (the Agrippas, Arias, and Hur) present a tale of an aristocratic member of the Jewish upper class, Judah ben Hur, who painstakingly overcomes great obstacles (unjust imprisonment and slavery at the hands of Roman Military Tribune Messala Agrippa) and who in the end emerges victorious over his Roman oppressors (namely, the Agrippas, Pilate, Tiberias, and, by extension, Rome)..
In the end, "truth" seemingly does win out over "evil": The good does triumph over the bad. The oppressed win, at least for the moment, against the Tiberian imposed Pax Romana. As a bonus, the details of the Wallace book are more finely etched in our consciousness than those presented in the former movie version.
While not recommended for children because of several scenes of the sexual intercourse and of the graphic cruelty and violence, Ben Hur (2010) is, nonetheless, well worth watching.
M. Monty Martinez