The best known actor in new Ben-Hur is the always superb Morgan Freeman, who plays the rich and powerful Nubian Sheik Ilderim. Ilderim mentors and trains Ben-Hur to participate in the iconic chariot race. During the race, a vengeful Ben-Hur goes head to head with Messala, Ben-Hur’s conflicted adopted brother, played by Toby Kebbell. Kebbell was Victor von Doom in the “Fantastic Four” last year and Koba in “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” in 2014.
Moises Arias, who played Rico on Disney’s “Hannah Montana” a decade ago, does a solid job as Gestas, a teenage Jewish zealot taken in by Ben-Hur’s family with disastrous results.
The main female character, the strong-willed Jew turned Christian Esther, is played convincingly by Nazanin Boniadi. Esther, who becomes a believer during the course of the movie, plays an important role in Ben-Hur’s development. Along with Ilderim, she voices some of the movies best, most spiritual lines.
Embraced by Christian leaders
“Ben-Hur” has been well-received by the Christian writers and leaders who saw it in advance of its general release.
Regarding the movie, syndicated columnist Cal Thomas encouraged his Foxnews.com readers to “Go see it. You won’t be disappointed.” Trey Reynolds, a Lifeway.com columnist, wrote that Ben-Hur “is probably the biggest budget film that evangelical audiences will love.”
The movie’s website, www.sharebenhur.com, has video clips of many nationally-known faith leaders, such as Rick Warren, senior pastor of Saddleback Church, and Joel Osteen, pastor of Lakewood Church, praising the movie. The site also offers free resources, such as pictures, movie clips and discussion guides, for use by faith-based communities.
On the website, executive producers Mark Burnett, who with his wife created “The Bible” miniseries, reminds viewers that “Ben-Hur” is not only “one of the great stories of all time, it’s also a story about Jesus, about faith.”
As he finished his tea at the press briefing, Santoro was asked about the movie’s potential to impact non-believers.
Santoro pushed back his chair and leaned forward as if to propel his answer.
“Is the question will this movie bring people to Christ?” Santoro asked. “I not only hope it will. I think it will.”
Dr. Steve J. Rios is a Miami-based free-lance writer and president of Rios Research & Evaluation.