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Lawrence of Arabia
Year:
1962
Country:
UK
Genre:
Drama, Adventure, Biography, History, War
IMDB rating:
8.4
Director:
David Lean
Peter O'Toole as T.E. Lawrence
Alec Guinness as Prince Feisal
Anthony Quinn as Auda abu Tayi
Jack Hawkins as General Lord Edmund Allenby
Omar Sharif as Sherif Ali
José Ferrer as Turkish Bey
Anthony Quayle as Colonel Brighton
Claude Rains as Mr. Dryden
Arthur Kennedy as Jackson Bentley
Donald Wolfit as General Sir Archibald Murray
I.S. Johar as Gasim
Gamil Ratib as Majid
Michel Ray as Farraj
John Dimech as Daud
Storyline: An inordinately complex man who has been labeled everything from hero, to charlatan, to sadist, Thomas Edward Lawrence blazed his way to glory in the Arabian desert, then sought anonymity as a common soldier under an assumed name. The story opens with the death of Lawrence in a motorcycle accident in Dorset at the age of 46, then flashbacks to recount his adventures: as a young intelligence officer in Cairo in 1916, he is given leave to investigate the progress of the Arab revolt against the Turks in World War I. In the desert, he organizes a guerrilla army and--for two years--leads the Arabs in harassing the Turks with desert raids, train-wrecking and camel attacks. Eventually, he leads his army northward and helps a British General destroy the power of the Ottoman Empire.
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Reviews
Simultaneously personal and panoramic
Sweeping, epic and literate version of British adventurer and soldier T E Lawrence's experiences in Arabia during the First World War. Lawrence, miraculously well played by Peter O'Toole, "went native" when sent into the desert to find Alec Guinness's Prince Feisal. Before long he was striking out himself against the Turkish Ottoman Empire, which still held sway in the region at the beginning of the last century. Lawrence's efforts to unify the various Arab factions are particularly prescient.

Lawrence became an inspirational warlord whose neutral presence amongst the Arab tribes, lead by Omar Sharif and Anthony Quinn, amongst others, served to glue together shifting and uneasy alliances. As well as wrestling with himself, with his own demons, and with the cruel desert environment, the Englishman was also faced with culture clashes which pitted not only the imperialists against the indigenous populations, but also the mercenary practices of the Arab guerillas against the discipline of the British army. In the end, Lawrence himself does not know which side he is on, nor which party he belongs to. Set against a backdrop of the Arabian desert, the nomadic allies under Lawrence's direction, attack and disrupt the Turks' efforts to maintain control of the territory, whilst the elephant - the British army and its heavy guns under General Jack Hawkins - pushes ever deeper into the area: not until his job is done does Lawrence learn that the French and British governments have carved up the middle-east between them and that the battle-lines for the 21st century are already being drawn.

Scripted by the inimitable Robert Bolt and directed by David Lean, Lawrence of Arabia is one of those films without a weakness, despite drawing complaints for its near four hour length. The dialogue, cinematography, soundtrack and especially direction are superlative; likewise the supporting actors. But it is O'Toole at his charismatic best who steals the show in his starring debut; he never looked back. It may take an effort to watch this movie, but is well worth the ride and will, by the bye, provide some insight into the fractious and volatile world of Arab politics.

One of the best films ever made.
2004-05-23
Why this film is brilliant, and it's not because of 70mm
Note: I talk about scenes in the film so there are MILD spoilers.

Yes, Lawrence of Arabia is remembered for desert vistas and sweeping battle scenes. The cinematography is unforgettable, the scale vast. In many ways, it defines "epic," but at the center of Lawrence of Arabia there is a real historical person who was also a hero worthy of classical Greek tragedies: a man whose virtues are his downfall. A lot of people seem to miss this, and often I think fans of the movie even miss quite why there is nothing else out there like it. Every aspect of the film, from the narrative structure to the staging of shots, revolves around exploring not just what T.E. Lawrence did but why he did it, and what it cost him.

The desert is a recurring image, but it's not simply a stunning landscape. Shots linger on vast emptiness, and suggest a blank canvas on which Lawrence can paint whatever he wishes. Profoundly alienated from his family and home culture, Lawrence pulls on the robes and persona of the man he might have been, if he'd been born an Arab. The deeper his insecurities reach, the farther his ambitions must go. He conquers the desert, and the desert conquers him, demanding payment for every personal triumph.

The desert and the visuals of Lawrence of Arabia work in relation to the narrative, characters and themes in a way that would be impossible without 70mm film, without the long, lingering shots that make the desert itself a character. The desert shifts and changes, shimmers and conceals, as mysterious and indefinable as Lawrence himself. Peter O'Toole's performance is mirage-like, with emotions flickering and disappearing. Just as some shots linger on a vast and empty desert, others linger on his face, frozen in a moment of internal conflict.

Director David Lean cuts together close-ups and wide-angle shots to reflect the dual nature of his film as vast epic and intimate portrait, as when Lawrence journeys through the furnace heat of the desert to rescue a lost man. Consider the sequence. A speck in the distance; Lawrence's eyes, lit up in relief and vindication; the man, who has expected to die, almost literally rising from the dead; they move toward each other, two specks becoming one; and finally: the impersonal specks become human beings again.

Robert Bolt's screenplay is elegantly structured to show that the desert exacts a personal price for every public triumph, and that Lawrence's inner and outer identity are constantly in conflict. Lawrence captures a Turkish seaport by crossing the Nefud desert, but this success has required him to execute the very man whose life he just saved from the desert. Returning to Cairo to announce his military triumph, he helplessly watches a young friend drown in quicksand. Grieving and stunned, Lawrence approaches the Suez Canal and is seen by a British motorcyclist. To this man, Lawrence is a speck on the horizon, and when he calls, "Who are you?" we know this is the very question Lawrence is asking himself. The more Lawrence accomplishes, the more of a stranger he becomes to himself -- an unknown speck in the desert within.

Eventually Lawrence must come in from the desert, and rejoin his own race-and-class divided culture. This time, Bolt hides the theme of identity in a way that can only be noticed when the film is seen more than once. At the end of the war, and the movie, a British officer shouts racist insults and slaps Lawrence down to the ground because he is dressed in Arab garb. A few days later, when Lawrence is wearing a British uniform, this same officer is proud to shake Lawrence's hand.

Still later -- but seen at the opening of the film, at Lawrence's funeral -- this very British officer professes his great respect for Lawrence and berates a reporter, who really did spend time with Lawrence, for daring to be cynical about him. And the theme of identity comes full circle. Much as Lawrence fought for ideals his own people did not understand and against personal conflicts few would see, Lawrence of Arabia remains a film of many secrets, offering something new to discover on each viewing. It is the dual nature of Lawrence of Arabia, as an epic and as a personal exploration of the mind, that lifts it to a level of poetry made from images and dreams.

Ironic that the film is like its hero: often celebrated but rarely understood.
2008-01-22
A feast for the eyes
This film features some of the best cinematography ever done, you really get the feeling for the vast expanse of the landscape, the heat of the desert. The scene where Lawrence returns from the desert, slowly appearing, first only as a speck, in the boiling air - brilliant and not a second too long. And you can't beat hundreds of extras running and riding through giant sets. (btw, there are some blue-screen shots with o'Toole and Sharif on camel-back, those don't ring true) Peter O'Toole is amazing, but I have to disagree about many of the other roles - OK, it was a different time, but some of the performances were plain cheesy or over-the-top, even Olivier and Sharif. Also, while I'm skeptical about today's PC-brainwashed stories, the different factions were presented in a very one-dimensional way, the running time would have allowed for more nuanced characters. Not a film I'd watch very often, but definitely worth the money if you can catch it on a big screen, preferably a 70mm copy. Look for those detailed sets with the tiny mosaic and wood inlay works, or the wide-angle landscape shots! Amazing ...
2013-07-01
Unpretentious, direct, sweeping story


I watched this for the first time in widescreen. I found Alec Guinness distracting, as he is obviously not an Arab; and there is nary a word of Arabic spoken in the entire film beyond names and places. Omar Sharif may remind of you Wes Bently who starred in a similar epic, "The Four Feathers".

The film is more art than entertainment. It is long and a bit languid at times, but the photography is like nothing seen since, the score is beautiful (though a bit intrusive at times, as was the style for the era), the production is flawless (observe the city of Akahba).

The unpretentious, direct, sweeping story characterized the film for me.
2003-04-18
A saga of epic proportions..
"Lawrence of Arabia" had been on my must-watch movies list for a long time. There was so much I had heard and read about it. A lot had been written about this epic saga of T.E. Lawrence as being one of the greatest and most influential films of all time, revered by many great directors including Martin Scorsese.

I finally got a chance to see it recently, and considering all the good things I had heard about it, I must admit that my expectations were quite high.

"Lawrence of Arabia" tells the story of Lt. Colonel T.E. Lawrence, focussing on his war experiences in Arabia during World War I. A topic of such vast proportions needed an equally ambitious project to pull it off, and indeed, the filmmakers have put in a lot of efforts in painting this huge canvas and achieving what they'd set out to. Peter O'Toole plays the eponymous T.E. Lawrence. The film starts out with the accidental death of T.E. Lawrence in the present. The film then flashes back to narrate the story of how Lawrence was sent on a mission to evaluate the situation in Arabia, pertaining to Prince Faisal and his revolt against the Ottoman Turks.

Rest of the film then shows Lawrence's own involvement in leading the Arabs in the battle against Turks. So needless to say, you are presented with extravagant battle scenes, and long, never-ending desert treks, Lawrence's new-found friendships, his emotional ups and downs and some difficult choices that he is presented with. The director heavily indulges in showing off the beautifully shot desert landscapes (with the excellent Super Panavision 70 cinematography by Freddie Young).

"Lawrence of Arabia" lived up to my expectations during most of its long running time. In fact a lot more during the first two hours of the film. But something happened in the final act. Somehow the whole film seemed to go a bit awry and disoriented for some reasons which I am finding difficult to put in words. Suffice to say that it wasn't the overwhelming experience I thought it would be. For one, I think the film could have easily been cut short. A lot of time has been spent on desert treks and their long journeys through it. Yes, these scenes do require detail to show the hardships these men must've faced while crossing those perilous desert lands. But I somehow feel the director went too far in his attempt. So much so that the events taking place in the final 30-45 minutes seem too abrupt and disconnected.

There have been films as long as this and longer, but they have enough substance to fill those long hours. There are sufficient examples ('The Godfather Part II', 'Schindler's List', 'Seven Samurai' to name a few). "Lawrence of Arabia" has enough substance, yes, but a running time of 216 minutes, was simply not necessary.

That aside, the film, of course has plenty of plusses: As mentioned earlier, Freddie Young's cinematography is superb, so is Maurice Jarre's inspirational score. David Lean does a great job in directing this script by Robert Bolt and Michael Wilson, but falls a little short of expectations in terms of distribution of the content. Nonetheless, this was in itself a magnificent, ambitious project and a difficult one at that, so it is not fair to nitpick too much.

The cast: Peter O'Toole's performance is widely talked about. For me, frankly it was somewhat inconsistent. Not to take away any merits from the Legendary actor's acting talent. He was, in fact, great in some scenes. But I was slightly put off by the sometimes nervous, sometimes excessively confident behaviour. Then there were some scenes in which he went way over the top in displaying his emotions. Maybe it was the director who wanted O'Toole to act like that and O'Toole gave the director what he wanted.

The supporting cast is great, especially Omar Sharif, Anthony Quinn and Alec Guiness. I had seen Anthony Quinn in Fellini's "La Strada" earlier and it was great to see him display such versatility.

All said, "Lawrence of Arabia" is a great film, but falls a tad short of being a masterpiece in my book.

However, it definitely deserves to be watched at least once by any serious lover of cinema.
2010-10-12
Excellent movie. The lone heroic soldier unite Arab against the evil Turk
Seems that all modern movie to have the large computer effects to make great film. Not true with this old film. Seems good today as was when released decades ago. Movie show classic heroism as lone British operative help to unite the Arab people to fight the brutal Turk empire. Thomas Edward Lawrence is name of real life person who did this for British to help remove the destruction of the areas touch by Turkish armies in the Middle East areas. This movie also contains the acting by many famous actors. Most important is the film have one of the best direction a film could have. Film has some very dramatic moments such as scary Turkish torture scene and also the large build up to big battle scenes. Film also contain the stunning large amount of extras in the background. No computer gimmick like in the film today. Every person you see in scenes with thousands is actual real person! Film is as good as any film could be. Please hope that nobody says that book not like film or that they have too many differences with book since this film one of the best. Film truly worth 10/10.
2005-11-12
The Epic Super Panavision Desert Masterpiece.
Though somewhat controversial in its depiction of certain events, once you sit through the first 30 minutes or so of David Lean's masterpiece you ask yourself "How can I not love this movie"? From its outstanding "matchstick" cut, Freddie Young's cinematography and Maurice Jarre's phenomenal score, "Lawrence of Arabia" continues to be one of the most astounding practical effect movies ever made. Costing only $15 million dollars, to which Steven Spielberg claims that if made today shot for shot, it would be way over $250 million.

Told in two parts, The film awkwardly begins by depicting the last moments of Lawrence's life and the attendees of his funeral who claim to have known his daring exploits. I don't feel like I've spoilt anything for you, because we are then immediately thrown into the beginning of the adventure. Following Lawrence on his travels with the Arabians on their revolt against the Turkish. An epic weave of unification, somewhat sadism and pleasant egotism amongst the characters has a scope way beyond that of a camera lens.

There has been a somewhat controversy on how Lawrence has been portrayed in the film, but Peter O'Toole's performance is phenomenally impressive, and to me somewhat revolutionary considering certain acting sensibilities of 1960's Hollywood and World cinema (Then again, this was also the same year Gregory Peck astounded audiences with the Oscar winning performance in "To Kill A Mocking Bird"). Alec Guinness, Anthony Quinn, Jack Hawkins and Omar Sharif do extraordinary work also (I wish Gertrude Bell had made an appearance somewhere). There's just too many great quotes uttered in this movie, and all the dialogue from ever actor is impeccable.

Allow me to ramble on just a little bit longer, but the frontier is gorgeous. Whether it fades in from a previous scene, or emphasised by Maurice Jarre's score, it's one of the few films that makes me believe that when someone is dehydrated they really are. Lean's vision is vast through both its establishing shots and hundreds of extra's, reportedly he looked at John Ford's "The Searchers" (1956) for ideas and even some have made narrative references to Orson Welles's "Citizen Kane" (1941).

Final Verdict: Regardless of what version you see, "Lawrence of Arabia" is one of the great epics that truly deserve the title. In the years that will follow is it destined to remain as one of the tops? Let us just say that "Nothing is written". 10/10.
2015-03-14
simple tale of a man and his conflicts, a poetic expression amidst barbaric wars, an epic saga well told
i finally got to see it yesterday after many half starts and chances. i was just mesmerized by the epic proportions of this war movie which might have gone wrong in so many ways. but what comes out, is a beautiful piece of story well told. the beautiful shots of the great deserts, the heart churning melody that rises with every wind on the dunes, the battle scenes of epic proportions, the depiction of an Arab world and their culture ... what touched me more is the way the different phases of the central character is captured and managed. the inner conflicts and the human emotions. from a simple good for nothing soldier to the messiah like figure in the Arab kingdom to mere puppet in the hands of the politicians... this movie for me has different layers which one can appreciate. the purpose of our lives and its futility is so very well demonstrated through the rise and fall of our hero.
2007-01-08
Beyond Superlatives
If ever a movie earned the definition 'epic', then 'Lawrence Of Arabia' is it. In an age when sumptuous set-pieces can be effortlessly conjured-up by computer programmers, this truly authentic feast of cinematic vision still possesses the power to blow your mind. This is the real thing. The wide-sweeping vistas of desert wilderness are not special-effects; they are REAL. And they look real. Long views, sweeping pans and takes sustained over minutes are realised with a clarity, colour and vividness that absolutely melt your heart. That imagery is a more believable conduit to this complex man's evolving obsession with Arabia than the narrative itself.

Every scene is a breathtaking study in light and colour, character and dialogue. Every second is worth seeing and every word worth hearing. And its theme music is as iconic as the man himself.

The inimitable Peter O'Toole with his blonde hair, steely-blue eyes, haunting expressions and mood swings, commands your attention in every take. His Lawrence is a man swallowed up by a personal sense of destiny, striding between his cynical and prosaic taskmasters and a doomed belief in what might be achieved with superhuman effort. Omar Sharif never played a better role as foil to his capricious hero. Unusually, there are no leading ladies. And they're certainly not needed. A love interest would have cheapened the entire presentation. Here is a story about the romance of time and place. As that other great Arabian traveller and admirer of the ideal - Wilfred Thessiger - once remarked; "women spoil everything".

This is a long movie. Those with short attention-spans raised upon sausage-machine editing are doomed to find it dull, tedious, boring, slow and all of the other criticisms that fall from the lips of a generation accustomed to x-box action sequencing. But if you are blessed with a longer vintage, then Lean's masterpiece will swallow you up as surely as the desert itself.
2012-04-09
stunning film - must see
If ever a movie earned the definition 'epic', then 'Lawrence Of Arabia' is it. In an age when sumptuous set-pieces can be effortlessly conjured-up by computer programmers, this truly authentic feast of cinematic vision still possesses the power to blow your mind. This is the real thing. The wide-sweeping vistas of desert wilderness are not special-effects; they are REAL. And they look real. Long views, sweeping pans and takes sustained over minutes are realised with a clarity, colour and vividness that absolutely melt your heart. That imagery is a more believable conduit to this complex man's evolving obsession with Arabia than the narrative itself.

Every scene is a breathtaking study in light and colour, character and dialogue. Every second is worth seeing and every word worth hearing. And its theme music is as iconic as the man himself.

The inimitable Peter O'Toole with his blonde hair, steely-blue eyes, haunting expressions and mood swings, commands your attention in every take. His Lawrence is a man swallowed up by a personal sense of destiny, striding between his cynical and prosaic taskmasters and a doomed belief in what might be achieved with superhuman effort. Omar Sharif never played a better role as foil to his capricious hero. Unusually, there are no leading ladies. And they're certainly not needed. A love interest would have cheapened the entire presentation. Here is a story about the romance of time and place. As that other great Arabian traveller and admirer of the ideal - Wilfred Thessiger - once remarked; "women spoil everything".

This is a long movie. Those with short attention-spans raised upon sausage-machine editing are doomed to find it dull, tedious, boring, slow and all of the other criticisms that fall from the lips of a generation accustomed to x-box action sequencing. But if you are blessed with a longer vintage, then Lean's masterpiece will swallow you up as surely as the desert itself.
2015-04-07
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