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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 tries mightily to maintain his independence and solitude. I am reminded of the famous poem, THE HOUND OF HEAVEN by Francis Thompson. As in that poem, a human being is being pursued by God's redemptive love. Will he surrender to that love or reject it? The answer to this question is not given until the final frame of the film, and the moment adds a final triumph to Anthony Quinn's remarkable performance in this remarkable film.
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.
Quinn does a good job at protraying the protagonist, one unusual because of his dark nature. The last lines Barabbas speaks are somewhat ambigous and can be interpred in different ways. Palance gives a sinister performance as a sadistic gladiator that ranks right up there with his performance as hired killer Jack Wilson in "Shane."
Overall, I enjoyed the picture. There are some historical inaccuracies such as the way Roman helments are depicted and the fact the Flavian Ampitheatre hadn't been constructed yet (neither flaw takes much from the film). The musical score was well done. Finally, viewers considering purchasing the film should remember it is dark and fairly violent.
Most recent customer reviews
Anthony Quinn is excellent!Read more