Review of 'Lawrence of Arabia'

lawrence_of_arabia.jpg British lieutenant T.E. Lawrence (Peter O'Toole), despite showing promise is a misfit so is stationed in Cairo in an administrative role. Despite his insolence his commanders believe he has promise so over the objections of General Murray (Donald Wolfit), Lawrence is sent by Mr. Dryden (Claude Rains) of the Arab Bureau to assess the prospects of Prince Faisal (Alec Guinness) in his revolt against the Turks. When meeting Faisal Lawrence immediately forgets his orders, proposing that Faisal attacks the important port of Aqaba – by land. Despite Faisal's scepticism that the young British officer will be able to cross the un-crossable Nefud Desert Faisal gives Lawrence 50 men to make the attempt. When the attack is successful Lawrence finds himself in a series of attacks to free the Arab people from the oppression of not only the Turks but also the British…

One of my favourite films of all time, this is a truly classic film with Peter O'Toole giving a stunning performance as Lawrence. Lawrence is not exactly the most endearing character. Indeed, at one point he admits to the liking of killing people and he obviously struggles with his incredible intellect coming to terms with the bloodshed he is responsible for. Though he accomplished much for the Arab people he seems to grow more and more distanced from the goal, more interested in the heat of battle. O'Toole is really able to convey this contradictory nature of the character with no clear answers: The man was an enigma, but also hugely popular with the Arab people and the media.

The cinematography is absolutely incredible with Lean taking his time over lingering, still, shots of his cast and the stunning scenery which contributes significantly to the film's 3 1/2 hour run time (so long it has an intermission). The untold minutes we wait early in the film for the arrival of Sherif Ali (played by Omar Sharif, the only Arab in the principal cast) on a camel, beginning as a dot on the horizon, to when he first meets Lawrence at the well, are riveting…we are just as curious as the characters in what is about to come. The battle scenes and scenes in the high desert are amazing and were, unlike today, all done without any photographic trickery (no matte paintings here, nor any other special effects) which really adds to the authentic feel of the whole picture. Yes, those are really Omar Sharif and Peter O'Toole on those camels in the distance…no chance to see their faces but they are right there in the middle of the action. This attention to detail really provides the entire film with a gravitas that is hard to match. Coupled with the incredible score by Maurice Jarre (who can forget the amazing theme song) the visuals, acting, and story all come together as a seamless, magnificent, whole.

The visuals and cinematography are impressive as is the musical score. Though Lawrence is not necessarily a likeable character this is a compelling and enthralling cinematic masterpiece. Worth the time to sit down and appreciate, away from any distractions so you can concentrate…

Rating: “Nearly perfect, but not quite”

Directed by: David Lean

Studio: Columbia Pictures

Year: 1962

Length: 218 minutes

Genre: Action/Adventure