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Lawrence of Arabia
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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

Feast for the senses

10/10
Author: WraithApe from London, England
9 November 2017

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

A true epic in every sense of the word. The cinematic realization of the story of Col. T. E. Lawrence's involvement with the Arab Revolt towards the end of WW1 is a feast for the senses. From Freddie Young's spectacular cinematography through to Maurice Jarre's unforgettable score and star turns from Peter O'Toole and Omar Sharif, it's a film that demands to be seen on the big screen - I watched the 70mm print, that would surely have stunned audiences in 1962 with its sumptuous technicolor evocation of the harsh but beautiful landscapes of the Arabian deserts.

The first half of the film charts Lawrence's attempts to galvanize disparate Bedouin tribes into insurgency, culminating in the Battle of Aqaba. The second half focuses on the push north to Damascus, and at this point, the tone begins to shift, becoming colder (literally too - the parched desert gives way to snowy peaks) as politics take centre stage. The backdrop of the taking of Damascus is the Sykes-Picot Agreement, which saw Britain and France carve up southwest Asia into spheres of influence and control with the ultimate aim of defeating the Ottoman Empire. This shifting of scope, from the arena of battle to politics, is reflected in O'Toole's nuanced depiction of Lawrence, who begins to seem increasingly conflicted, failing in confidence and conviction as he is sidelined by his superiors, having outlived his usefulness.

It's a film that operates both on a grand scale and a very human scale, with Lawrence's compassion for individual lives and his personal capacity to inspire devotion counterpointed with the colonial remoteness of his puppet masters, General Allenby, Dr. Dryden and Prince Faisal, pulling the strings at a safe distance, far above the bitter reality of insurrection on the ground, and the human cost.

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2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

A long epic... unlike this review

8/10
Author: Michael Clough from Melbourne Australia
2 February 2004

Wow, a great epic movie. L of A show's T.E Lawrence, not purely in a heroic light, but the complex figure the man was.

Lawrence was a confident leader of men, but also arrogant & naive, the last two qualities becoming more evident as the film wears on.

The Acting in this film is brilliant, especially Peter O'Toole & Omar Sharif. A film that is a must see for all film lovers.

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2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

Yes, it is a very long movie, but the DVD on a large screen HDTV is worth it!

Author: TxMike from Houston, Tx, USA, Earth
21 December 2003

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

To put the running time of 'Lawrence of Arabia' in perspective, it is like watching four 55-minute programs in a row. I watched it in three segments, last night, this morning, and this evening. Then I watched the opening scene (after the dark screen musical intro) again, which had much more impact than seeing it the very first time. The DVD is just marvelous. The original movie was shot in 70mm film format, which gives a remarkably beautiful picture, and the transfer to DVD was done very well. Even without a good story, the photography alone can keep one interested. However it is a good story, about this misfit, under utilized as a map maker in the British military in WW-I, sent to Arabia and, much like a modern day 'Joan of Arc', motivates them to unite and defeat the Turks. Peter O'Toole creates a memorable 'Lawrence of Arabia.'

SPOILERS follow, tread carefully. The very opening scene is years after Lawrence came home to England, he is on his motorcycle, going down a narrow country road, increasing his speed, until cresting a hill sees two bicyclists in his lane, he swerves and brakes, highsides, goes off the road, and is killed. The irony is, after surviving unbelievable conditions and savage tribes in Arabia, he died near home in a silly motorcycle accident. As the movie itself develops, we see in his first desert crossing, his compassion for human life. Near the end of the movie we see a changed Lawrence, one who says of the enemy "take no prisoners, no one lives." We don't exactly know what caused the change other than the craziness that comes with war and brutality.

A very worthwhile movie, with stars like Peter O'Toole (T.E. Lawrence), Alec Guinness (Prince Feisal ), Anthony Quinn (Auda abu Tayi), Omar Sharif (Sherif Ali ibn el Kharish ) and José Ferrer (Turk officer). However, it probably would not come across very well on a small screen TV. It is best viewed in a theater, or on a wide-screen, HDTV.

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3 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

Breathtakingly beautiful

10/10
Author: vicbab
26 December 2016

Nearly perfect cinematography, along with great acting is a magnificent mix.

An incredible performance by Peter O'Toole leaves great space and opportunity for the storytelling of Lawrence of Arabia's journey across the desert. This movie is truly beautiful. Breathtaking views and heavily realistic fight scenes help with interesting character development.

Maurice Jarre's score fits each and every moment of the story-line and make us feel part of something great.

The running time of this film may be imposing (227 minutes), but every second counts, and is enjoyable: in the end, you don't feel like you wasted your time.

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3 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

Amazing film to see on the theater screen.

10/10
Author: Rick Billman (Rick_Bman) from United States
11 September 2007

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I had been meaning to watch this film for quite sometime but the length kept me from moving it to the top of my Netflix queue. However, I kept hearing wonderful things about it so I really was looking forward to getting a chance to see it. When the AFI Silver Theatre near me decided to show a 70mm print of it, I decided I could not put it off anymore. From all the things I had heard about this film I knew I would regret it if I passed up the chance to see it in the theater. So, even though the only time they were showing it was 7pm on Sunday nights and the theater was over an hour away, I decided that I would see it. It was well worth the lack of sleep I got that Sunday night and the grogginess I was feeling all day at work Monday.

Clocking in at just under 4 hours the movie is still paced extremely well and never seems to slow down or drag. The story is always intriguing and the characters always interesting. Peter O'Toole does a marvelous job as T.E. Lawrence, he makes this over-the-top character seems 100 percent real like few other actors could do. The supporting cast is just as wonderful; Omar Sharif, Alec Guinness, and Anthony Quinn all do a wonderful job portraying their characters. And even though this movie is about T.E. Lawrence, the supporting characters are just as important to the story and had the supporting cast not been just as wonderful as Peter O'Toole the movie would not have held me for 4 hours. However with wonderful acting all around the movie is a pleasure to watch, even once your backside starts to go numb.

The direction and cinematography of the film are some of the best I have ever seen. The desert landscapes look amazing. The battles scenes are brilliantly shot and editing together. However, the smaller, more intimate scenes are just as memorable as the larger than life battle scenes. Perhaps that is due in part to the larger than life character of T.E. Lawrence though. In fact the most memorable scene for me was the scene where Lawrence admits that what most disturbed him about killing wasn't the act itself but that he enjoyed it. Intimate scenes like this along with the huge battles scenes such as when the Arabs take Aqaba give the film its wonderful pacing that keeps the moving going.

Probably one of the most memorable shots in the film is when the character of Sheriff Ali is introduce, riding his horse through a mirage in the desert. Capturing this mirage on film could not have been an easy task and it makes for such a wonderful and beautiful effect that would probably be achieved digitally these days. This one scene those is just an example of how wonderful this film looks from beginning to end. This is one of those movies that you could take almost any frame and it would be a wonderful photograph that you could hang on your wall.

The musical score of this film is also simply amazing. Now, I don't really know a lot about music and I don't always take notice of the musical score for a film but you can't help but take notice of the score for this film. It always fits perfectly with the film and the overture at the beginning really puts you in the perfect frame of mind for the film.

Overall this is just a very enjoyable film and definitely was a pleasure to see at a movie theater as it was meant to be seen. This movie also, most definitely gets my "Seven Samurai Award for Excellence in Pacing in a Film Exceeding Two and a Half Hours." Usually I am of the belief that if a film clocks in at over two and a half hours it probably could have benefited from a better editor. This is one of the few films I have seen that breaks that rule, and it is always a joy when a film is able to do that.

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3 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

Nothing is written…Lawrence of Arabia

9/10
Author: jaredmobarak from buffalo, ny, usa
23 March 2007

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Lawrence of Arabia is oftentimes listed as one of the greatest films of all time. Not only that, but many say Peter O'Toole's performance as T.E. Lawrence is the greatest piece of acting ever to be captured on screen as well. Being that the movie was made 45 years ago, I wasn't going into it thinking I would agree with either statement necessarily. Whether the four hour run time was too daunting to get my hopes up or not, I knew that no matter what, I needed to finally see this film. I was going to go for the ride from Cairo to the Middle East along with the band of Arab tribes trying to take back their land from the Turks.

On a technical level, Lawrence of Arabia has few equals. Director David Lean has created something with true epic focus. There are no advanced computer graphics multiplying fake people into huge battle scenes, this had to be done with real extras, sweltering in the desert heat waiting for their opportunity to fight amongst the movie's stars. The scope is wide and Lean is never afraid to show the desert as a desolate wasteland because the shots are beautiful to behold. The British didn't understand what Lawrence saw in the sand, but viewing the landscape shots here, the audience can see the tranquility and beauty that it truly holds. This was a big-budget movie and it shows by the settings besides the desert. When we arrive in Cairo and see the excess with which the soldiers live; its affluence is on display. Not only by the material objects, but also by the soldiers' utter ambivalence to the fight while their Arab counterparts are trekking through the sun-ravaged desert to claim victory.

It is this juxtaposition between the British forces and Arab fighters that backbone the film. Yes, T.E. Lawrence is the focal point and his journey from army outcast to Arab liberator is the story arc we follow, but it is the fact that he tries to live in both worlds which really defines the course of actions on display. Credit does have to go to Peter O'Toole for his ability to grow his character throughout and display the emotion and conflict living inside him. Lawrence saw an opportunity to help the Arab tribes regain control of their land despite Britain's refusal to give them artillery. Even at this early moment, he might have suspected this lack of true support as a sign of future motives, but he was so focused on his cause and the fact that he could do anything he set his mind to, he just didn't care. When he finally succeeds with his first mission, he returns a broken man, having killed and seen things he never wanted to see. He knew it was all for the best, though, and needed to stick by his word of setting his new friends into a free land. Only when the men at Cairo, who once laughed at his expense, praise him with accolades and promotions does Lawrence first start becoming a man without a clear purpose. A man that was accepted by no one now finds himself loved by two distinct cultures, and must somehow cope with the success or eventually fall as a result.

Besides the excellent performance by O'Toole—intense, sarcastically humorous, and heartbreakingly real throughout—we are also treated to an acting clinic from the supporting players. Omar Sharif is fantastic as the Arab Sheriff Ali who agrees to accompany Lawrence on his suicide mission to take a Turkish outpost. Sharif gives Ali a realistic progression from a man who cannot see a white man surviving anything in their future, to one who would follow Lawrence into Hell if asked. Anthony Quinn is also great as Auda abu Tayi, a leader of a tribe that can be bought by whoever offers most. His interactions with O'Toole are some of the best moments in the film because Lawrence always knows what to say to persuade Auda into doing something for his own interests and not for monetary gain, (although he still likes to take something as a souvenir for his troubles). Even Alec Guinness brings an effective performance despite playing an Arab Prince. There are many moments where the allusions to his later Obi-Wan Kenobi character come through making me smile, but the accent is hidden nicely into a British educated Arab speech that helps me forget he is as much an Englishmen as O'Toole is Irish.

In the end, however, it is the story which truly leaves a mark. During the runtime, I was slowly seeing some redundancies and wondering if an hour could have easily been chopped off without a second glance. Disappointment was setting in and I was thinking I might have to give it a 7 or 8 rating as a whole. Once the final scenes play out though, you realize why we needed everything that came before. It is Lawrence's success in battle that both leave him broken but also ripe for persuasion into continuing on. The British were looking for a way to have Arabs do the work but eventually swoop in and take the Middle East for themselves, and with Lawrence, they had their man to rally the troops. Lawrence was neither British nor Arab, but instead a man beyond his dreams and ideals. The Arab tribes would never be able to live in harmony for a peaceful unity, and the British were just waiting for the implosion to occur. When all is said and done, Lawrence realizes he is not the God that people, and himself, saw him as, but a pawn that has been played from the beginning. His sanity and drive for good is sucked out of him because while it seemed he was accepted by both worlds, he really didn't belong to either.

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3 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

Haunting

10/10
Author: eyecandyforu from United States
16 January 2007

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Hard to believe that after 45 years of loving movies, I finally got around to seeing Lawrence of Arabia. As with many films that make a huge impact on me, I dreamt about it that night. I dreamt of flowing white silk robes, decorated horses and sand. Lots of sand. Many have already given a synopsis and cast list, many have listed the films assets. For me, after the experience (and trust me, at 227 minutes, it's an experience) I was left feeling stunned and empty, stunned by the depiction of the desert, empty from the realization that nothing within the dark expanses of human experience really changes. Yes to one reviewer who was not sure Lawrence ever existed. He did. A very complicated man, shy yet full of an odd bravado, Lawrence reveled in the drama of a land he loved but could not be part of. He sought adventure and when it came, was overwhelmed and ultimately disappointed that his life was not like the childhood adventure tales he undoubtedly read. The film tells his story in broad strokes, very strong characters surround Lawrence, whose character is played brilliantly by O'Toole who stays quietly charismatic (as well as physically beautiful) creating an enigma that is never really understood. You're left wondering how the hell he got away with what he did, yet amazed that it happened. The futility of war is tempered with the romanticism it creates. People come together in common causes, strong relationships develop, heroes emerge. Wars are full of such scenarios and inspirational tales. But this is at heart the story of a film flam game, a bait and switch played on a grand scale with an Empirical Western giant manipulating desperate peoples using one of their flamboyant yet influential soldiers as a ploy. This con game was the undoing of T. E. Lawrence and he spent the rest of his life in guilt, trying to escape his fame, changing his name, reluctant to accept profits from his memoirs and wondering if the adventure had been worth it.

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3 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

Torture/Rape sequence

10/10
Author: akim1-1 from California
17 August 2004

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Lawrence of Arabia is probably my all time favorite film. Right now I'm right on the cusp of finishing Seven Pillars of Wisdom written by the historical Lawrence. What I found interesting in the film was the scene in which Lawrence is captured by the Turks and whipped for punching the Officer. But in the book, Seven Pillars, the officer actually captured Lawrence in order to solicit him for sex, whereupon Lawrence kicked the officer in the groin. The enraged officer then has Lawrence whipped for not pleasuring him, and proceeds to have sex with a Turkish sergeant. I found the contrast between book and movie interesting, but rather necessary for the generic film audience of 1962.

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4 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

I Like My Epics Gay

Author: tieman64 from United Kingdom
19 November 2009

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

"It's no wonder that nearly all the great founders of religion came out of the desert. It makes you feel terribly small, and also, in a strange way, quite big." – David Lean

Some brief points...

1. Of all of David Lean's films, "Lawrence of Arabia" is perhaps his most beautiful. Here's a director who waited months for the perfect sunset, who spent hours composing every shot.

2. Virtually every other sequence in "Lawrence of Arabia" is logistical nightmare, Lean having to frame grand compositions, choreograph huge crowds, build vast sets and manage hordes of animals.

3. Lean's "Attack on Aqaba" sequence is staggering. Lean built an entire town, with over 300 buildings, all for a single unbroken shot which tracks an army as it swarms a coastal city. When Lean's camera finally draws to a halt, revealing the Mediterranean Sea and Aqaba's massive coastal cannons, we can't help but gasp.

4. A super influential film. You look at "Lawrence" today and you see bits of "Star Wars", "Close Encounters", "2001: A Space Odyssey", "Indiana Jones", "Kingdom of Heaven" etc, all over the place. The film contributed hugely to our cinematic vocabulary.

5. Unusual for a film this size, there was no second unit photography. Lean shot everything himself, too much of a perfectionist to abdicate duty.

6. Though it attempts to convey the intricacies of imperialistic politics and touches upon racial difference and homosexuality, the film's sense of geography and politics are a bit muddled, and its portrayal of Thomas Lawrence hardly factual. Indeed, because of people like Lawrence, and various other events, both before and after the infamous Sykes-Picot agreement, the Middle East was carved up and artificially divided for the very purpose of destabilisation and proxy rule. The problems of this period extend to our era.

7. In his biography, Lean states: "I think the whole of this creativity is sex. There's no two ways about it. And if you want to go and make a good movie, the fact of it is that sex is terribly important. If you want to make a good movie, get yourself a new, wonderful woman and that movie will be fifty, if not seventy, percent better than it would have been if she hadn't existed. It lights everything up. You see, I think lack of energy and tiredness is sexual failure."

8. In a way, the film's also about Lean himself, and the way the alienation of Lawrence's homosexuality mirrors that of the artist. Lean was born to strict Quaker parents who banned him from going to the cinema. In response, he developed a fondness for the desert and a passion for exotic locales (on screen and off). "Lawrence of Arabia" itself almost plays as a kind of autobiography, a story about a man/director who travels to the desert, falls in love with its people, gains wealthy financing, has a grand vision and realises his dreams by managing, inspiring and directing thousands of men. In a way, the film is less about Lawrence the man than it is about creativity as a kind of libidinal drive; a sort of big budget take on Freudian sublimation, creative energy stemming directly from the libido.

9. Watching the film again, its amazing how preoccupied it is with personal identity and sexuality. The film opens with a scene which demonstrates that "nobody really knew who Lawrence was" and that any effort to "sketch" him on screen is "an exercise in futility". Later in the film a man ominously shouts "Who Are You?" when he sees Lawrence, and all throughout the film Lawrence is seen to be extremely conflicted, unsure how to act, how to dress, unsure of his very place in the world. Is he Arabic? Is he British? Is he masculine? Is he feminine? Which culture does he most identify with? Why has he turned his back on his country?

10. Of course Peter O'Toole portrays Lawrence as a very effeminate man. He's homosexual, sexually repressed and sexually conflicted. This is a guy who's psyche is so damaged by being rejected and alienated that his ego compensates by writing its own history, by creating an image of himself as an "epic hero", the "perfect man" who conquers nations and rallies thousands behind him. Watch how he admits to being sexually aroused by guns and sadomasochism, but reacts violently when a foreign General makes homosexual advances toward him. It's almost as though Lawrence's entire "hero persona" simply extends from this timid guy's desire to assert his own sexuality.

11. The film is suffused with sexual innuendos and homosexual jabs, ranging from subtle lines ("That's not the kind of man I am!") to more blatant signals (Lawrence dancing alone, obsessed with shaving etc).

12. Interesting too is the way Lean and screenwriter Robert Bolt turn Lawrence's masochism into a kind of psycho-sexual anti-war statement. After taking part in a massacre, Lawrence slowly turns his back on his masters. "War is the villain of the piece," screenwriter Robert Bolt would say years later, "for it takes this fine and hardy man and turns his own best qualities against him, filling him with revulsion for himself."

13. The film is often praised for its visuals, but few mention how innovative Lean's sound design is. Lean uses the wind as music, makes excellent use of ambient or incidental noises and uses bubbles of silence to create some extraordinary moments of tension. He creates a wonderful aural tapestry.

8.5/10 – This may be the gayest epic of all time.

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6 out of 11 people found the following review useful:

Should be Watched by Every American/Brit

9/10
Author: sirspeedy03 from United States
30 October 2005

This film is a classic and an important tool for understanding current upheaval in the Middle East. Aside from the unbelievable cast, haunting score, and superb acting (particularly O'Toole's Lawrence... even better in the director's cut which shows additional facets of O'Toole's character development), the film demonstrates the most effective tactics employed in asymmetrical warfare... hit and run strikes on soft targets like Aqaba and Turkish railroad/supply lines. These are the tactics currently being utilized in Iraq, and we could learn valuable lessons, namely that the Sykes-Picot agreement and its arbitrary national boundaries, combined with the dishonesty of the British has been a great factor in the ever-present unrest that has plagued the region since the days of Lawrence. Perhaps we would also be wise to note that a superpower has NEVER defeated a well-established insurgency. Even ignoring its intellectual provocation, this is an epic that effectively balances the sweeping vastness of the Arabian peninsula's awe inspiring deserts with the (certainly exaggerated) grandeur of the fascinating character that was T.E. Lawrence.

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