Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
Critic Consensus: The epic of all epics, Lawrence of Arabia cements director David Lean's status in the filmmaking pantheon with nearly four hours of grand scope, brilliant performances, and beautiful cinematography.
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as T.E. Lawrence
as Prince Feisal
as Sherif Ali Ibn el Ka...
as Auda abu Tayi
as Gen. Allenby
as Col. Brighton
as Mr. Dryden
as Jackson Bentley
as Gen. Murray
as Medical Officer
as Cpl. Potter
as Club Secretary
as Turkish Bey
as RAMC Colonel
as Allenby's Aide
as Regimental Sergeant ...
as Turkish Sergeant
as Corporal Jenkins
as Elder Harith
as Khitan of Aleppo
as Club Secretary
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Critic Reviews for Lawrence of Arabia
Lean and photographer Fred A. Young have combined their artistic talents in an evocation of the Arabian desert that makes it both terrifying and deeply moving in its lonely grandeur.
It is O'Toole who continually dominates the screen, and he dominates it with professional skill, Irish charm and smashing good looks.
[It] remains one of the most intelligent, handsome, and influential of all war epics.
It has an epic hero whom it doesn't hero-worship...[O'Toole] brings flawlessly to life the film's vision of a flawed warrior who is corrupted by pride, soured by empty victories and betrayed finally by the jubilant jump of his heart every time he kills.
Audience Reviews for Lawrence of Arabia
A splendorous epic restored to near perfection, running now for almost four hours of magnificent visuals and fantastic dialogue, and it offers us both O'Toole and Sharif in superb performances - especially the former as a complex, contradictory man in a journey from eccentric soldier to mad exhibitionist.
An indisputable classic concerning an unruly British soldier (Peter O'Toole) tasked by the army to provide assistance to the Arabs in their battle against the Turks. This sweeping, nearly four-hour epic is definitely a long watch, but a rewarding one if you have the patience to see the complete arc of a fascinating, arresting character. O'Toole is the perfect man of the part, as he fully captures the emotions of a character in a "fish out of water" scenario. Aided by a strong supporting cast and a story that expertly captures the politics of the days of the WWI, this is a bonafide masterpiece. Sure, it is definitely overlong, but it is better that way, as it feels in some ways viewing the movie as a journey itself, which in turn feels fitting.
T.E. Lawrence binds Arab tribes in the West's battle against the Turks.
While I consider this film necessary viewing for anyone who considers him/herself a student of film, I can't say that it is unquestionably great. Yes, Peter O'Toole's performance is marvelous, and David Lean's direction, particularly the cinematography, is quite strong as he frames beautiful shots and often captures the mood of the environment.
However, at close to four hours, the film is extraordinarily long, and some of its length can be attributed to Lean's penchant for showing people walking great distances in order to carry out the scene. Rather than keep the camera focused on a character as he walks into the scene, it's rather simple to show the character approaching, cut away to an reaction shot, and then have the character present to begin the scene. It's a technique that's so often used we barely notice it any longer. It's true that Lean is trying to capture the vastness of the desert, but he does this in so many other parts of the film that I could see how the film's running time could be trimmed considerably.
More important is the film's relationship to race and politics. Edward Said writes eloquently about Lawrence in Culture and Imperialism arguing that Lawrence follows a tradition of colonialists who treat Arabs and Arabia as racially inferior. The film argues that Lawrence's relationship to these people is far more complex than Said claims. The Lawrence of the film recognizes his white privilege and is in conflict with his own identity. which makes a compelling conflict. If the film's relationship to race and colonization stopped there, then I wouldn't have a problem with it. After all, just because the film's thesis differs from Said's opinion of Lawrence doesn't mean it's a film to be rejected. But the casting is more problematic. Alec Guinness, a Brit, and Anthony Quinn, a Mexican, portray Arabs in - for lack of a better term - "brown face." The only Arab in the film with a major speaking role in Omar Sharif (who coincidentally harassed Edward Said during their school days). While I balk at calling Lawrence of Arabia a racist film, I think that it's fair to say that the casting and the inability of the film to fully question the morality of Lawrence's behavior makes it racially problematic.
Overall, I think you should see this film because its scope and its technical proficiency are extraordinary, but it's not without its ambiguity and flaws.
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