Directed by David Lean
Nominated for 10 Oscars, Won 7
Up Against: The Longest Day, Mutiny on the Bounty, To Kill A Mockingbird, The Music Man
Lawrence of Arabia is one of those classics. Everyone knows of the movie, but not many people have actually watched it, or really know what it's about besides it being about a man named Lawrence in a place called Arabia. That was me included. I'd heard of Lawrence of Arabia, but had no clue it was set in WWI. I had thought it was set way earlier in time, and had nothing to do about a war. And I had no idea it was a true story either.
Lawrence is a young solider, stationed in Cairo in 1916, drawing maps. Most of his superiors dislike him, calling him insolent and disrespectful, talking when he shouldn't be. He's eventually given a mission, to go to the desert and investigate how the Arabs revolt against the Turks are doing (For those who don't know, Turkey fought on the side of Germany, and they had "control" over several Mideastern countries, such as the Arab tribe). Once he arrives, he is told to keep quiet in front of Prince Feisel, by another officer there. But as we come to understand about Lawrence, he doesn't follow the rules. Prince Feisel, after his tribe being attacked, wants to retreat to Yenbo, but Lawrence suggests pushing ahead to Aqaba, to capture that city, something the soldiers back in Cairo didn't think could be done. From here, Lawrence shows just how different from other soldiers he is. He embraces Arab culture, leads 50 men across the dessert that the Arabs said was impossible to cross, and organizes a guerrilla army, launching attacks on the Turks for 2 years. As Lawrence says to his guide when he arrives in the desert "No, I'm different."
This movie is a little tricky to review. But then again, any more that is almost 4 hours in length is tough to review. It's almost like reviewing 2 movies at once. First off, Peter O'Toole, who went on to be nominated for 8 Oscars, this was one of his first roles, and was certainly his first "big" leading role. And wonderful he was. Lawrence was a complex and different guy, and he carried Lawrence beautifully. Additionally, Alec Guiness was almost unrecognizable as the Arab Prince Feisal. And Omar Sharif, as Sherif Ali, was additionally brilliant, and earned an Oscar nomination for the role.
The film itself was gorgeous, and understandably won Best Cinematography. The landscapes of the Arab desert were gorgeously filmed, even if sometimes it did go on a little too long.
Similar to Bridge Over the River Kwai, Lean does something interesting. This is set in WWI, but we don't get much mention to trenches in France, and whatever else we associate with WWI. Instead it's solely focused on the story of Lawrence, and the things happening in Arabia, that most people probably didn't know happened during that same time. It's a funny thing to think that War Horse and Lawrence of Arabia are set during the same time period. They seem just so far apart from each other.
While the movie is a classic, I found it hard to sit through. A lot of the movie wasn't explained (why the Arabs should be revolting against the Turks, what going to Aqaba would do, etc). I found myself asking my boyfriend a lot of questions while we watched (He's majoring in History in University, so could answer all my questions). Additionally, everything was very drawn out. Almost an hour was spent crossing the dessert to get to Aqaba (a lot of landscape shots, people falling off camels at night, etc). Yes, it was an interesting story, but I find it just a little overly drawn out. However, this is in big part due to the fact that I have grown up in a "short attention span" era of movies. Movies that are 2 hours or under, with fast action, little talking, etc. I live in an era where things like Transformers are the popular movies. I'm not accustomed to sitting through a 4 hour film that is slow-paced.
And now, I'm introducing a new rating system breakdown, to shown exactly what I liked and didn't like about the film, and scoring out of 100.
Music- 9.5/10 Emotional Connection- 6/10
Overall Enjoyment- 7/10
Overall Package- 8/10