Lawrence of Arabia is a true epic Hollywood film that brings audiences to another time and place while also managing to be in-your-face with its production value balancing a subtle art and metaphor in a super-long, super-technicolor manner that you don’t seem to mind even though several hours have passed. Lawrence “epitomizes all that motion pictures can be…from Maurice Jarre’s sweeping score to Robert Bolt’s literary script to Freddie Young’s Gorgeous desert cinematography to the literal cast of thousands,” Lean’s beautiful film presents “the follies of colonialism and the hypocrisies of war” as a “true epic with the scope and scale of great literature” (Klein).
I watched the film over several nights, and I was surprised how often I found myself gasping out loud, swept up in the scale and brilliance of a film that deserves every single accolade that has been heaped on it. When the opportunity to see the film in 4k or 70mm arises I’ll drop everything and make the trip. This film is definitive moviemaking – tell an original story with a message in a unique way that only cinema can capture. Lean’s film is unparalleled, human, global, and timeless. O’Toole’s performance of the enigmatic and troubled Lawrence is stunning, with his bright blue eyes cutting through the screen the entire film. Just as remarkable was Omar Sharif as Sherif Ali. Lawrence of Arabia is a masterpiece.
I was absolutely floored that I had never seen this film. I knew little about it going into it, and frankly, I was ignorant to what O’Toole was doing in the costume (and perhaps that wasn’t dust but unfortunate makeup and a hundred other unfortunate casting decisions right down the line as early Hollywood was wont to do). That said, I was incredibly surprised at what Lean and O’Toole delivered – and I went on to do some research about T.E.Lawrence and learned some really interesting political, social, and personal details about a man whose life was cut way too short.
This film was spectacular. I loved every moment that I spent watching it. It is moving, it is huge, it is spectacular, it is exciting, and it is perfect in so many ways. I love that Lean spared no expense, and the fact that it was cast so well with thousands of real actors, it was shot on location at real locations and there were hundreds of tiny deliberate decisions to make the most perfect film. It was easy to appreciate that this was a real film without any CGI to pad any aspect – everything felt true, from the scorching sun to the horses to the costume and palatial sets, and nothing replaces that.
A magnificent film I wouldn’t mind watching again and again. Like a book, it feels like I could toss this DVD in and pick it up wherever I please and watch for twenty minutes or the full three and a half hours to find the same awe and wonder as the first time I saw it. Looking forward to catching it when it hits theaters again, as it inevitably will.