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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
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
The most beautiful film I've ever seen
When I first saw Lawrence of Arabia, I was 16 and my teacher had loaned it to me as he suspected that I might enjoy it, much unlike students in his previous classes. I actually expected the film to be an incredibly boring four hours in the desert, but my opinion had changed almost as quickly as the movie had started. I was amazed by the characters, the graceful and witty dialog, the never-ending presentation of amazing shots, and of course, the character of T.E. Lawrence.

To understand that a film crew had to go out there and film rare and beautiful desert phenomena, without the aid of modern visual effects technology or even a SINGLE matte painting presented an incredible feeling. Before watching this film, I was under the impression that beauty was better recreated in artifice than actually filmed. I thought that only the skill of a matte painter could produce such beauty. No. I was overwhelmed by the beauty of the desert, by the magnificent and colossal natural structures in Wadi Rum and the seemingly infinite vacuous space covering the land. It was difficult to believe that there are actual places on earth like these.

Second, the script was brilliant. I had a bit of trouble following the plot, but it mattered not; I was too busy admiring the visuals and the almost poetic dialog. On my second viewing, I had no trouble understanding the plot.

In short, this is perhaps the most beautiful film I've ever seen.

Though, I must warn: The movie is heavily fictionalized. The historical inaccuracies are numerous, however they don't take away from the film at all.

In fact, not long after purchasing the film for myself, I've done quite a bit of reading about the Arab Revolt, T.E. Lawrence, and the Seven Pillars of Wisdom.
2006-05-28
Spectacular Movie!
This movie is like no other I have ever seen. As a woman, just looking at Peter O'Toole's stunningly beautiful blue eyes was enough to capture my attention. You will not want to miss any lines in this movie as every one of them is so important. The movie is serious and sad but has humor and well written drama included. Omar Sharif plays a very important role as well and his acting is superb.

The relationships that build across the desert will make you feel as if you are there with them. Even though this movie is long, with an intermission even, you will be sad that the movie ends. You will not want it to. It is that entertaining.

I loved the Prince of Faisal also as his voice is perfect of that of a Prince of Royalty. His lines are well written and he says them perfectly.

The only thing I think this movie lacked was a few women. But, being a movie focused on war you will understand why after you see the entire movie.

Lawrence of Arabia is Definitely worth seeing again. This movie is a well known Oscar winner and deserves to be in the best top 50 of classic movies ever made!
2012-04-15
a memento from the days when they made real movies
It is, in a way, depressing to watch this movie today. One winds up contrasting it with the sort of technologically slick and aesthetically shallow spectacles, like "Titanic", that garner the sort of adulation that a truly great movie like "Lawrence" received in its day, and one realizes how far we have fallen.

Ignore David Lean's painterly technique, the way he fills the screen like a canvas. Ignore Freddie Young's stunning cinematography in fulfillment of Lean's vision. Ignore the fabulous score by Maurice Jarre. Ignore the stupendous cast. Ignore the topnotch script.

What we have, beyond all this, is an absolutely gripping and psychologically perplexing character study of a uniquely enigmatic individual that keeps us on the edge of our seats for the full length of the movie. "Lawrence", at over 200 minutes, goes by faster than many a movie of half its length, due to Lean's brilliant pacing and direction, and superb acting all around. To make a comparison in the world of music, this movie, like Mahler's 8th symphony, is a universe contained within itself.

Of course, it is an exercise in self-denial and philistinism to watch this movie in anything other than the wide-screen - or "letterbox" - format, due to Lean's complete use of every inch of the wide screen. To watch it otherwise is to miss half of Lean's intention.

To use a hackneyed phrase, they simply don't make 'em like this anymore.
1999-06-15
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
Nothing is written…Lawrence of Arabia
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.
2007-03-23
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
Somewhat as boring as watching sand dunes but nice acting by all.
Lawrence is a misfit British Army lieutenant, notable for his insolence and knowledge. Over the objections of General Murray, Mr. Dryden of the Arab Bureau sends him to assess the prospects of Prince Faisal in his revolt against the Turks. On the journey, his Bedouin guide is killed by Sheriff Ali for drinking from his well without permission. Lawrence later meets Colonel Brighton, who orders him to keep quiet, make his assessment, and leave. Lawrence ignores Brighton's orders when he meets Faisal. His outspokenness piques the prince's interest.

Brighton advises Faisal to retreat after a major defeat, but Lawrence proposes a daring surprise attack on Aqaba; its capture would provide a port from which the British could offload much-needed supplies. The town is strongly fortified against a naval assault but only lightly defended on the landward side. He convinces Faisal to provide fifty men, led by a sceptical Sheriff Ali. Teenage orphans Daud and Farraj attach themselves to Lawrence. They cross the Nefud Desert, considered impassable even by the Bedouins, travelling day and night on the last stage to reach water. Gasim succumbs to fatigue and falls off his camel unnoticed during the night. When Lawrence discovers him missing, he turns back and rescues Gasim—and Sheriff Ali is won over. He gives Lawrence Arab robes to wear.

Lawrence persuades Auda abu Tayi, the leader of the powerful local Howeitat tribe, to turn against the Turks. Lawrence's scheme is almost derailed when one of Ali's men kills one of Auda's because of a blood feud. Howeitat retaliation would shatter the fragile alliance, so Lawrence declares that he will execute the murderer himself. He is then stunned to discover that the culprit is Gasim, the very man whom he risked his own life to save in the desert, but he shoots him anyway.
2016-08-04
One of the greatest epics ever.
How does one make a film about a figure that just as many felt was a hero, as felt was a villain. That was the question posed to one of the greatest directors in American cinematic history, David Lean.

Strangely, the film starts off with the death of Lawrence in a motorcycle accident. We then see his funeral, complete pageantry befitting a man of Lawrence's accomplishments. And as one man tells a reporter that Lawrence was a great man, he takes no time to degrade Lawrence as the reporter walks away. This prompts an man eavesdropping to defend Lawrence, even though he only knew him through press clippings. And here is where the story begins.

We find Lawrence at his beginnings, a rather average British solider given a rather average task. He spends most of his days sitting behind a desk, until he gets an assignment. One that calls for him to seek out Prince Fiesel, played by Alec Guiness in perhaps his greatest performance. Torn between two countries, Lawrence is caught between what he feels is loyalty to help a struggling people, and the orders from the military in his native land.

Lawrence is a complex man who can be calm, and charismatically charming one moment, has shown in his concern for two orphans he takes under his wing, to a brutal man with the ability to kill without remorse.

The film makes no apologies for Lawrence, painting a brutally honest picture on the man, and leaving the question to the audience. Was Lawrence a good man, or an evil one with dreams of being a God? Yes the film is 3 hours long, but take heart, there is actually a intermission in the film. However, this film is paced well, the story is interesting, Peter O'Toole, Omar Shariff, and Alec Guiness are all amazing performers who each give the best performance. In a small role as a ruthless dictator, Jose Ferrer, and Claude Rains, know for his role as Captain Louis Renault, plays the role of Mr. Dryden. An epic movie made from a Hollywood that has sadly faded away. This is one of the movies they are talking about when they say "they don't make them like they used to."
2011-03-23
Heroism brilliantly shown
When it come to making epics, David Lean is the master and what better proof than this masterpiece. "Lawrence Of Arabia" was first shown in 1962 and after almost 40 years later, it is still beautiful. The story of T. E. Lawrence is wonderfully brought to us by David Lean, director of another masterpiece called "The Bridge On The River Kwai".

David Lean has shown us a man's long, yet never boring (at least for me) journey into the deserts of Arabia. Lawrence (Peter O'Toole) is an ordinary man that becomes a hero (at least in my eyes) during his extensive tenure in Arabia. He becomes a traveler, a great man, and a leader to the people that he has associated with. Only director David Lean could have given us a movie experience like this.

An assortment of phenomenal actors are collected for this movie and what a cast! Peter O'Toole, Omar Sharif, Anthony Quinn, Alec Guiness and so much more portray their characters with intensity and believability. Never have I been so impressed. As Lawrence, Peter O'Toole plays the role of which his name is most associated with and is surprising for me that he made the role his own because before I got a chance to see this movie I imagined a man opposite from someone like Peter O'Toole. Omar Sharif as Ali is one of the most charismatic characters in film history. I will not say anymore about the cast because I'm allowed only 1,000 words to use in my comment.

Will all do respect to classics such as "Gone With The Wind" and even "Bridge on the River Kwai"this is without a doubt the most exciting epic of all time. I highly recommend it!
2001-03-02
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