Lawrence of Arabia (1962)

lawrence of arabia poster 1962 movie
10 Overall Score
Story: 10/10
Acting: 10/10
Visuals: 10/10

Amazing visuals, great score, great cast

Really long

Movie Info

Movie Name: Lawrence of Arabia

Studio: Horizon Pictures

Genre(s): Drama/War

Release Date(s): December 10, 1962

MPAA Rating: Not Rated

lawrence of arabia match shot peter otoole

Blow out the match, give us the desert, and cue the music!

It is World War I, and in addition to the War in Europe, a war against the Turks in the Middle East is raging.  T.E. Lawrence (Peter O’Toole) doesn’t fit in the British army.  He’s more interested in maps and philosophes than fighting and battle, but he also does have a flare for theatrics and glory.  Mr. Dryden (Claude Raines) has selected Lawrence for a special mission.  He is to meet with Prince Faisal (Alec Guinness) and determine if Faisal and his men can defeat the Turks.  Lawrence sees this as a challenge and sets to unite the various tribes of the Arab people into a force to be reckoned with.  The war against the Turks might be a minor footnote for the Arabs if they trade the domineering force of the Turks for the English.

Directed by David Lean, Lawrence of Arabia is an epic war film.  The movie based on T.E. Lawrence’s autobiography Seven Pillars of Wisdom which focuses on war from 1916 to 1918.  The film received positive reviews and won Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Cinematography—Color, Best Art Direction-Set Decoration—Color, Best Sound, Best Film Editing, and Best Original Score with nominations for Best Actor (Peter O’Toole) Best Supporting Actor (Omar Sharif), and Best Adapted Screenplay.  It was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress in 1991.

“How good am I? We started out as enemies and now we’re besties!”

Lawrence of Arabia is the type of movie that shows the epic nature that movies can take.  When you watch other films that don’t spend the money and the time to tell a story, they can be weighed next to this film…the movie is a product of the past (with a few problematic issues typical of the period), but it is an ode to big Hollywood and epics done in the classic Hollywood style.

The movie is long.  That cannot be avoided.  The first part of the movie up to the intermission is probably the core and strongest part of the film with Lawrence entering the desert and gaining the respect of the Arabs he fights with.  The second half is kind of what could be considered his “downfall”.  His pride catches up to him and this combines with the fact that he doesn’t have the support of the English military that he thought he had.  He begins making promises he can’t keep and it becomes impossible to live up to the image and the reputation he’s built for himself.

lawrence of arabia peter otoole eyes

I will murder you with my steely, cold blue eyes!

Peter O’Toole is good as Lawrence because he has a type of flightiness to him along with an arrogance that the character needs.  It makes him fallible, but it also makes him great.  With his big blue eyes, you can see when he’s broken or struggling, but you can also see pride.  Where the modern problems arise with Lawrence of Arabia is that with the exception of Egypt born Omar Sharif, the movie didn’t really cast Middle Easterners in the major roles.  Alec Guinness, Anthony Quinn, and José Ferrer darken themselves to play Prince Faisal and Auda Abu Tayi who now come off as stereotypes.  With modern movies there would have been more of an effort to hire appropriate actors for the roles (and with the situation in the Middle East as it stands today, they might still have some problems finding people willing to play the roles).  Everyone is fine in their performances, but it is a bit off putting by today’s standards.

lawrence of arabia captured turks peter otoole jose ferrer

I think I might have overplayed my whole “I could pass as Arab” thinking…

What Lawrence of Arabia does visually is the most powerful aspect of the film.  Tied with the great score, the movie has sweeping desert landscapes.  It is easy to forget that everything in the film is natural aka pre-computer generated imagery.  Today, if you need one hundred horses, you get a few and add more digitally.  In 1962, you needed one hundred horses.  The difficulty of working with sand is also easy to forget.  To walk over an unblemished sand dune, you can’t have your crew walk on it, you can’t have multiple takes.  It all has to be thought out before hand, and you might only get one shot.

Lawrence of Arabia is a masterpiece.  Despite the length, it should be sought out and watched just because it was also kind of at the end of these massive epics and kind of a culmination of efforts.  The movie looks and sounds fantastic and has a great lead in O’Toole.  It needs to be taken in the context of when it was made and discussed as such in regards to Lawrence and the English (or really any outside power) in where the Middle East stands today…but remember “Nothing is written”.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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