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*** 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.
Lawrence has been the finest and most memorable film I have ever seen
even edging out such classics as Gone with the Wind, Gandhi,Raging
Bull, Unforgiven and Dances with Wolves. Firstly-in my opinion David
Lean was the greatest film director of all time. He had a superb true
story,fantastic locations,a great cameraman, a totally mesmerising
score and a PERFECT cast. The movie had everything except humour which
was not suitable. I shed more tears in THIS movie than almost any other
at the way Lawrence was used and abused(literally in one episode)for
the interests? of the British and French but certainly not for the
Arabs and the future of the Middle East. There were more individual
memorable and moving scenes in Lawrence than I can remember in any
other. The one where Daud died in a quicksand was truly heartbreaking.
I have seen Lawrence four times and I would watch it again!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
T.E. Lawrence (Peter O'Toole) is an eccentric British army officer who
is serving as a minor staff officer in Cairo during World War I, until
General Murray (Donald Wolfit), the commander of the Egyptian
Expeditionary Force, is convinced by Dryden (Claude Rains), the
slippery chief of the Arab Bureau, to dispatch Lawrence - who has
knowledge of Arab culture from his pre-war visits to the region - as a
liaison officer to forces of the faltering Arab Revolt against the
Ottoman Empire, led by Prince Feisal (Alec Guinness). Ignoring the
skepticism of the already-present British officer, Colonel Brighton
(Anthony Quayle), he convinces Feisal and the latter's chief
lieutenant, the fiery Sheriff Ali (Omar Sharif), to allow him a small
expedition to seize the Turkish-held seaport of Aqaba, Jordan.
Undertaking an impossible forced march through the Nefud Desert,
Lawrence is successful, becoming first accepted by the Arabs and then
made into a sort of superhero, and succeeds in recruiting the
flamboyant chieftain of the Howeitat tribe, Auda abu Tayi (Anthony
Quinn) to his cause in the process. This catches the attention of the
British general staff in Cairo - including General Edmund Allenby (Jack
Hawkins), who has replaced Murray - who decide to supply Lawrence with
arms and supplies to wage a guerrilla war against Turkey to complement
Allenby's conventional attacks - but with a tight leash, as Britain
(and France) have designs on the Middle East. Encouraged by his
victories and an American journalist (Arthur Kennedy) who is looking
for a hero, Lawrence lets his fame get to his head, thus beginning a
long downward spiral as he discovers his own fallibility, the perfidy
of his commanders, and that, no matter where he is, he must always be
There isn't really a negative thing that can be said about this film. The cinematography and direction is simply the best in any movie ever, there's no doubt about it. Lean is a master of the epic scope, and his amazing, non-stop shots of large bodies of men moving through the vast desert is simply beautiful, and more surprisingly never gets old (at least for me). Freddie Young's cinematography does an excellent job of showing the vastness of the desert, as well as just how insignificant people - even an army of 2,000 Arabs on horse/camel-back - are in it. The entrance of Ali at the well is just an amazing scene, done with no music - nothing but a camera pointed at a black figure emerging from the vast wasteland of the desert. The battle scenes also deserve credit, too: in times when "Lord of the Rings" relies on CGI battle sequences, it's refreshing to watch a film which uses thousands of REAL people. The most amazing of these is the attack on Aqaba, which ends with an amazing thirty-second panning shot, showing the Arabs swarming through the entire town, finally settling on a Turkish cannon that is pointed to the sea "and cannot be turned 'round". The raid on the Turkish supply train, and of course the massacre of the retreating Turks towards the end ("No prisoners!") are no less effective, the latter being a much more potent anti-war message than all of the films of Oliver Stone combined. Robert Bolt and Michael Wilson write a wonderfully literate and thoughtful script (with amazing relevance to current events in the Middle East today). And need I even mention Maurice Jarre's amazing score?
The cast is flawless. Peter O'Toole is simply amazing as Lawrence, giving one of the most compelling performances is cinematic history. He is able to convincingly portray Lawrence's massive shift in character: going from an arrogant outcast, to a man who believes in his own infallibility, to a man who is finally a broken shell, disillusioned by his own violent acts and his manipulation by his superiors. O'Toole's performance is simply stunning, and it's no wonder this movie made him a star. Omar Sharif is also impressive as Ali, a charismatic character who is the perfect foil for Lawrence's shifting personality. Alec Guinness is solid as Feisal, who is both sagely and cynical at turns (I am convinced that George Lucas cast Guinness as Obi-Wan Kenobi because of this performance). Jack Hawkins deserves credit for making Allenby both manipulative of and sympathetic to Lawrence simultaneously. Anthony Quinn and Claude Rains steal every scene they're in - Quinn with speeches and flamboyant gestures, Rains with marvelous dry underplaying. Jose Ferrer does a nice job cramming a lot of interesting depth into the Turkish officer who captures (and does other things) to Lawrence, considering that he has all of five minutes on screen. Arthur Kennedy (as the Lowell Thomas-esquire reporter, Jackson Bentley) and Anthony Quayle (as Brighton, the stuffy Brit who grows to respect Lawrence over the course of the film) round out the cast nicely.
Simply put, there is no other film quite like this. It is the ultimate epic/adventure movie, and MUST be scene in widescreen to be appreciated. I have the fortune of owning a plasma TV with surround sound, which is about as close to seeing it in a theater as you can get. Do NOT watch this movie pan-scan, or it will be ruined.
If the only reason why you wouldn't watch this movie is "length" - well, that's your problem for missing out on THE greatest cinematic experience of all time. You can have your "Titanic" or "Return of the King"; I'll take "Lawrence of Arabia" any day.
I saw the Restoration version of "Lawrence of Arabia" in 1989 at a
local big screen theatre in surround sound. It was a thrilling
experience that I will always cherish. I made the 9 mile walk home that
night, beginning after midnight, and I felt as though I had been to
Arabia on some dream-like cloud. I walked on air all the way home.
The greatest film of all time hardly needs more words from me, but this film should be owned and seen on a regular basis just so as to remind one's self what great cinematic movie-making is all about.
Sir David Lean's effort was not wasted. This WWI history was brilliantly told and the equal of it will never be seen again! This film was greater in scope and cinematography than "Bridge on the River Kwai." I wonder why filmmakers of today do not set their standards higher so they can produce decent works of art. Perhaps they know they cannot achieve such a high standard for themselves so they just give up and produce worthless drivel that no one wants to see.
It's a shame but perhaps one day soon something will happen to revive the mystique of the past in movie making. We can only hope it will happen and it cannot be too soon.
I should probably throw on a pair of asbestos overalls if I plan to
insult the classics. It just needs to be said that the old movies are
I tried liking the Manchurian Candidate, but it didn't get my heart racing. Citizen Kane almost put me to sleep. Even some of the newer "must-sees" like Marathon Man were less than appealing.
But finally, I can give an solid 8 out of 10 to a classic movie. While Lawrence's running time has put a dent in my free time, I can honestly say that the adventurous story was well worth watching. There were grand scenes and great fights. While melodramatic in some parts, most of the acting was good.
Lawrence of Arabia is the best classic I've watched so far. I recommend it to anyone who's a fan of the epic adventure movies.
One sure thing about this masterpiece it was done with great love for
the subject, characters, place & the people of Arabia.
David lean spent nearly 2 years in filming this picture, and the result = the greatest masterpiece in film history.
The majestic landscape of the Arabian Peninsula combined with the majestic music by the genius Maurice jarred with a director vision, the combination of these three elements is a rare commodity through out the history of movie making.
I believe that David Lean actually fell in love with the Arab and became another T.E. Lawrence. Practically, you can not do such marvelous work without great love and devotion.
You probably saw a lot of the desert flicks, and I am sure most of them are stinkers. Because they lack a major value, respect to the natives and their way of life, I cant say that Lawrence of Arabia praised the Arabs, but he gave more than any film I can remember a wide range of characters that covers the whole human spectrum in any society, it do not have that cheap attitude towards the Arab as human beings as most of Hollywood films does.
The 2 years spent in the desert played a major role in realistically studying the natural Bedouins in their natural environment and to learn their customs, manners and even their body language, this was obvious in the acting, also using real Bedouins as extras gave the film its distinguished flavor. The costumes was something I always admire in this move, the way they show the Arabic dress is dignifying, its not like those fantasy costumes that Hollywood uses frequently even in modern cinema (hidalgo for example).
I think modern cinema lost its magic, although they are trying very hard not to, but they couldn't figure it out. its very simple the human factor is lost. Its not any more important like before, I can go further in saying actors became shallow, their real life is shallow and artificial and this is the human dilemma, the more technologically advanced and materially we become the less humans we became.
Life is soul, and you can not pump life in a dead body.
Cinema as an art form is losing its soul, I think the cinema will be revived but it needs another people that still did not lose their innocence and souls.
Lawrence of Arabia is a classicist Epic directed by David Lean, and
starring Peter O'Toole as the titular character T.E. Lawrence. In many
ways Lawrence of Arabia exemplifies an Epic, but what may be most
impressive about the film is it's use of character development and
themes. Lawrence of Arabia may be the best epic of all time, because it
is grand in scope, long but never boring, and beautiful to look at. It
truly is a masterpiece.
When one thinks of what defines an epic, they could point to Lawrence of Arabia as a perfect example, it literally sets the standard. For example Lawrence of Arabia contains many Extreme Wide Shots of a vast panoramic landscape, this is one of the most recognizable elements of a epic, reinforcing how large in scope the story is. Most epics deal with stories that have a sense of spectacle, and therefore use these huge landscapes to show that, Lawrence of Arabia does that as well as any other film.
Set against the Arabic dessert, which lends itself to large panoramic landscape shots, the audience is treated to seeing a beautiful picture, and in the middle we see these characters trying to navigate their way through it all. The film liked to use mostly wide shots, so much so that when they use a close up, it truly feels like it has meaning. On top of that Lawrence of Arabia contains some of the most luxurious set designs, and costumes of the time. High production values is of course is another common element of an epic, but the most impressive thing about Lawrence of Arabia is the pacing and the character development.
At almost four hours it's hard to imagine a film that wouldn't feel long, but somehow Lawrence of Arabia manages not to. This is most likely because the themes and characters are both relatable, but also larger than life in some ways. Seeing a normal man navigate his way through massive desserts, and through foreign cultures may make him seem larger than life, but to his core the film keeps Lawrence human, so the audience never feels detached from him.
The film deals with age old themes such as the "fish out of water" theme, which is used quite often, but arguably never better than in this film. As with most of the best films, the story and character development is mostly visual. In the beginning we quickly see how out of place Lawrence is, as we see his Arab escort shot for stealing water, Lawrence is outraged, as to him killing is taboo, and water is a common commodity, yet to the Arab culture, Water is so precious it's worth killing for. As the film goes on Lawrence learns the cultural difference, and learns not to treat other cultures as barbaric, because to them he is the barbarian.
Utilizing beautiful grandeur Lawrence of Arabia still stands as one of, the best epics of all time, and a true masterpiece of cinema. Embodying all of the characteristics of a classic epic film Lawrence of Arabia is truly impressive because of it's masterful pacing and character development. It truly is an epic experience.
Peter O'Toole's first 'starring role'...and, he strikes gold!
This movie is an absolute masterpiece that incorporates everything a great epic movie should be made of. It set a standard for how epic movies 'should' be made; and, David Lean later did it again in 1965 with "Doctor Zhivago."
Peter O'Toole is just perfect in the role of Thomas Edward (T.E.) Lawrence, a simple young British Army Lieutenant sent to speak with Arab tribal leaders in an attempt to get them to fight the Turkish who are conquering their territories. Instead, he's not simple at all, but, very complex, and, exceeding his orders, Lawrence convinces these Arab tribal leaders to set aside petty squabbles with each other and that each tribe is weak by themselves...but, strong if they all unite.
This is a heavenly masterpiece! To me, definitely one of the greatest epic movies ever made. It rivals another 'later' David Lean movie classic, "Doctor Zhivago."
Although completely different in subject, this movie is in the same '11-Star Class' as "The Godfather;" "Schindler's List;" "Star Wars;" "The Man Who Would Be King;" "Rocky;" "The Longest Day;" "A Bridge Too Far;" "Cross Of Iron;" "The Wild Bunch;" "Das Boot;" "The Shawshank Redemption;" "The Good, The Bad, and, The Ugly;" "The Lord of the Rings;" "The Green Mile;" "Silence of the Lambs;" "Goodfellas;" etc...IT'S AN EPIC CLASSIC!
It's film-making excellence! :)
David Lean's Lawrence of Arabia may be well over 50 years old now, but
it stands the test of time like all truly great works.
The movie details T.E. Lawrence's experiences as a British liaison who inspires the Arab revolt against Turkish rule during World War 1 (1916-1918).
At 3 hours and 47 minutes this is a LONG movie but somehow strangely hypnotic. The awesome music plays a huge part in this effect.
If you're weary of the moronic approach of too many modern films (too much CGI and roll-your-eyes action, etc.) Lawrence of Arabia is the perfect antidote.
It's mainly the story of a European man who sheds his stuffy "civilized" upbringing to revel in a new-found freedom in the desert wilderness as he integrates with the Arabs and basks in their glowing acceptance. He accomplishes this by, first, disregarding his superior's orders and honestly relating to the Arabs and, second, by proving himself unbiased to any specific tribe and willing to risk everything in helping them to defeat the Turks.
Those spoiled by modern blockbusters won't likely appreciate "Lawrence of Arabia" but those who have an eye for artistic cinema will revel in it.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I first watched Lawrence in the stupidest way possible, with a ruined,
skipping DVD on an absurdly small PC screen, lying on the bed during an
incandescent August afternoon, to kill time before returning to the
It's a testament to this milestone of cinema how, in spite of everything, I still found myself swept away by the gorgeous visuals, by Jarre's haunting score, by O'Toole's fey Lawrence: his character arc from showy dreamer to overconfident warrior/poet and finally to bitter, disillusioned legend is one of the most compelling ever filmed.
Seldom in my movie-going experience I have been as thrilled by a character entrance as by Sheriff Ali's, still a black dot on the horizon as he shoots a man for the water of a well; as disturbed as by the nightmarish scene in Daraa and its implied horror; as betrayed as by the transmogrification of Alec Guinness' Prince Feisal from soft-spoken paternal figure to shrewd, manipulative politician; as exhilarated by cinematic craft as by the cut from the match to the rising sun, or the panning shot of the assault on Aqaba.
Epic at its finest: when Lawrence steps on a puddle and smiles as he appears to be walking on water, it tells us more about him than a whole hour of exposition would.
A vital, timeless masterpiece.
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