Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
Reviewed on 2007 March 26
I think most people have a list of movies that they intend to see, and slowly get around to watching. Lawrence of Arabia was one of mine. Every time some movie channel aired it I came on board well after it started or I was busy, so I finally broke down and rented it. To my surprise the rental place only had video tapes and no DVDs. I tried but the sound and grainy picture were too distracting, and after about twenty minutes I marched it right back, went to a chain store, and dropped $10 on a no-frills DVD that had all 217 minutes of movie (not counting the overture and intermission). Should’ve done it years ago.
T.E. Lawrence (Peter O’Toole) is a British soldier tapped to unite the Arab tribes against the Ottomans in WWI. His efforts are hampered by bureaucracy and the natural suspicion that people have of each other. Worse, a powerful tribesman named Sherif Ali (Omar Sharif) questions everything Lawrence does. Prince Feisal (Alec Guinness) supports Lawrence but Ali is so vocal he almost undermines it. The officers back in Cairo, the ones who sent him, don’t seem to be particularly interested in making his job any easier. Since Lawrence frequently refuses to think of himself as a puny mortal, he doesn’t let any of this stop him.
Besides having the world’s bluest eyes, O’Toole was a wonderful Lawrence, portraying him as a complex character, powerful and frail, sometimes in the same scene. David Lean’s direction and the amazing cinematography make the desert seem to be as much a character as any of the men in the movie. The sunrises alone make me want to see this thing on a big screen some day. Maurice Jarre’s music is the perfect addition to the mix.
Some people say the movie is too long and lament the lack of women in the movie. I thought it had to be epic length to show the men getting to know each other enough to fight together, and women weren’t a variable in this story. Just get a comfortable chair and watch it when you’re awake enough to enjoy all of it. If nothing else — you get to see Omar Sharif and Peter O’Toole together. Lots of jokes exist about the guy with a brunette on one arm and a blonde on the other, and here we have the film version for women. I know that was probably the last thing on Lean’s mind, but do you think I care?
Three chocolate morsels and a glass of cold lemonade.