I’m somewhat inundated with the sheer volume of films I have yet to see. Lawrence of Arabia is one of the few films I had heard simply nothing but praise for, and rightly so. A pillar of the epic genre, and clocking in at over three hours, David Lean’s Lawrence of Arabia is a spectacular slow burner that blends the right amount of action and biographical substance to create a truly compelling movie.
I didn’t know much of T.E. Lawrence before seeing this picture, and it’s strange that after finishing Lawrence of Arabia, I hold just about the same knowledge as I did before watching. There’s a strange feeling throughout that this could’ve been a fictional story of a man who cannot find his place in his own society, joining another and becoming their leader. That has become somewhat of a staple to the Hollywood plotline, and it seems that Lawrence of Arabia jumped through some hoops to popularise such a style.
The sheer scale and complexity of Lawrence of Arabia, even in the smallest of its scenes, is breath-taking. Thousands of extras, some on horseback, galloping around the Arabian deserts. It’s a sight to behold and one that is captured immensely well by director David Lean. Introducing myself to Lean’s work for the first time, it’s already clear to see the tropes and camera tricks he inspired in various other directors that would follow in his footsteps. His direction is excellent, combining sharp camera movement with an emphasis on the men T.E. Lawrence (Peter O’Toole) familiarised and fought with.
O’Toole may actually be the biggest let down of the movie, and while his performance comes nowhere close to the realm of bad, he’s a bit of a slog in his first leading movie role. He pales in comparison to the supporting cast, specifically Omar Sharif and Alec Guiness respectively. The trio are great, all provide strong performances that carry the weight of the movie, it’s just a shame that O’Toole is overshadowed more often than I would have expected.
Considering the length and scale of the picture, it’s a surprise that Lawrence of Arabia’s pacing is stunningly investing. There are no points in the movie where it feels this scene could’ve been cut or shortened, everything there has a specific purpose and it does so in a delicate but bold manner. Coupling it with an infamous score and a solid script, David Lean’s work culminates in a tremendous feat of cinematic history.