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Epic account of the thief Barabbas, who was spared crucifixion when the Jews chose Christ in his place. Struggling with his spirituality, Barabbas goes through many ordeals leading him to the gladiator arena, where he tries to win his freedom and confront his inner demons.
Starring Anthony Quinn in the title role, Barabbas was released in 1961 in the midst of a wave of widescreen epics based on biblical characters. The screenplay, by playwright Christopher Fry (who also contributed to Ben-Hur), is an unusually intelligent one. Further assets are the imaginative, sparingly orchestrated score by Mario Nascimbene and a handsome production design by art director Mario Chiari that is so rewarding to the eye in Aldo Tonti's often dazzling cinematography.
Many scenes, such as Christ's crucifixion, are shot and staged like tableaux in a style reminiscent of the great masters of art. And director Richard Fleischer surpasses anything Ridley Scott achieved years later in Gladiator: he fills the huge arena--a vast Roman amphitheatre--with a gladiatorial school of hand-to-hand combat, a parade of elephants, and a den of lions, and then caps his production with a riveting and thrillingly mounted duel between Jack Palance, careering round the circumference of the arena in his chariot, and Barabbas dodging him on foot. --Adrian Edwards
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Barabbas is depicted as a complex person, who endures great suffering on his way to determining his true path. The early Christians are not portrayed very favorably -- surprisingly, they somehow blame him for surviving when Jesus was executed, even though Barabbas had nothing to do with Pontius Pilate's decision to spare Barabbas..
A movie that raises a lot of complex questions, it will intrigue both Christians and non-Christians.
Anthony Quinn is excellent!
Yes it is a religious film but even if you are not a believer, this is a fine story.