Lawrence of Arabia (1962)

Synopsis: The story of T.E. Lawrence, the English officer who successfully united and led the diverse, often warring, Arab tribes during World War I in order to fight the Turks.

For more info and to watch the trailer, click here:

Who chose it: Leah

Why I chose it: Probably because its one of those movies you’re supposed to see before you die. And because I love beautiful cinematography.

Leah’s Review:

There are some films that need to be seen. I hate being that person who says that you need to watch a movie because it’s so iconic- but “Lawrence of Arabia” really is something that everyone should watch and experience at least once in their life.

Does “Lawrence of Arabia” appeal to the modern movie-goer? Yes and no. I think much of the film goes unappreciated by many who would see it today. For an adventure-genre film, it isn’t action-packed. Sometimes there’s little to no dialogue. It’s a nearly four-hour long epic, much of which goes by rather slowly. But the story isn’t really what’s important here- rather how the story is told is what’s important.

For someone who appreciates film as an art and not concerned solely with content- “Lawrence of Arabia” is a cinematic treat. The story is an epic and is meant to be experienced rather than watched. Much of the grandeur of this film is lost solely because of the modern format we’re forced use. Much like last week’s “Dunkirk”, the movie was shot in 70mm and this really is the only way one can fully view and appreciate it. I can only imagine how much more epic the vast desert scenery would have looked on the big screen as it was meant to be seen.

As I’ve mentioned previously, I’m a sucker for a movie with good cinematography- and “Lawrence of Arabia” is really the cream of the crop when it comes to cinematography. Nearly every shot shows the stunning and expansive landscape of the dessert- fully immersing the viewer into that environment. And I can’t not mention the iconic and brilliant shot of Omar Sharif’s entrance through the desert mirage or my personal favorite transition between Lawrence blowing out a match to a desert sunrise landscape shot.

The cinematography is beautifully complimented by Maurice Jarre’s masterful score- giving majesty and a sense of wonder to each scene. I would go so far as to say that the movie wouldn’t be nearly as epic if not for its soundtrack (which, no surprise, won an Oscar for best score).

I must also mention the flawless performances of stars, Peter O’Toole, Omar Sharif, and Alec Guinness (Guinness was an extremely strange choice given his English nationality- but still does the character justice). Previously, I had only seen O’Toole in two of his lesser films (and yes, one of those was Pixar’s “Ratatouille”), but was completely captivated by his performance as T.E. Lawrence. Omar Sharif has always been one of those magical actor names that I knew but had never actually seen on screen. His portrayal of the complex Sherif Ali (whose character development is perhaps the most interesting) was one that I immensely enjoyed.

I don’t think think “Lawrence of Arabia” appeals to everyone- but I do think it is a movie that had a huge impact on film-making and is a must-see for any film-aficionado. Or if you just really like camels.

Brent’s Review:

“Lawrence of Arabia” is a biopic of T.E. Lawrence, a young and peculiar British soldier who was successful in uniting Arab tribes to fight against the Turks during World War I. “Lawrence of Arabia” is an epic. It begins with an overture and features an intermission. The cast features eight actors who either won or were nominated for Oscars (including Peter O’Toole and Omar Sharif, who both were nominated for their performances in this film). The film runs just short of four hours in length. Viewers be warned: watching “Lawrence of Arabia” is an investment of more than just time.

The genius of “Lawrence” is lost on me today, watching the film now 55 years after its initial release. The film’s most impressive and beautiful feature is its cinematography. Landscapes are photographed so beautifully by Freddie Young that it seems the film is made of artwork that came to life. More than that, the cinematography plays heavily into the atmosphere of the film: characters don’t cut immediately into the frame (as Sergio Leone did in “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly,” another film in a desolate landscape). Instead, characters begin as blips on the horizon. One character’s introduction is lengthy, nearing several minutes in length as his spec becomes a person who becomes a man with a rifle. The only signal of his impending arrival is the dust kicked up by his camel in the distance. The beauty of this type of cinematography loses a lot when exchanging a 70mm theater print for a digital format on a 32” HDTV.

The other aspect of the film that I missed by my contemporary eyes is the patient sense of storytelling. “Lawrence of Arabia” is a slow story by any standards, but watching it today makes it feel like the story crawls. It’s hard for me to enter into in an epic of this length when I’m used to nice, tightly-wound narratives that get you in and out in two hours. This film harkens to a time where watching a film wasn’t just entertainment, it was an event. David Lean never meant his epic to be watched on a home television on a Saturday afternoon. Can I even say I saw the film he wanted me to see?

But I can say that I’ve seen it – and I enjoyed parts of it. I appreciated parts of it, especially the screen presence every actor has, especially Peter O’Toole and Omar Sharif. But for me, it felt less like watching a story I could get involved in and interact with and more like watching a historical document. Watching a film of this scope reminds me of family, some of whom have passed away, who would watch these sorts of films as children. I wanted to see “Lawrence of Arabia” so I could be part of that conversation. And, like the soldier near the film’s end who shakes Lawrence’s hand just to say that he’d done it, now I suppose I can

Next up: We’re going to dial the cute factor up to 11 and check out “Wall-E”, a Pixar film that we both missed when it was released… nearly a decade ago.

Peace out, kids.


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