27 mar. 2014

My Review: Lawrence of Arabia (8/10)

"The English have a great hunger for desolate places. I fear they hunger for Arabia."

Lawrence of Arabia is the true definition of an epic film; the enormous landscapes in the desert were captured by Freddie Young through beautiful cinematography, accompanied with a magnificent score written by Maurice Jarre, a spectacular cast led by a terrific performance from Peter O'Toole playing a very complex character, wonderful art direction and costume designs which all contribute to some big scale scenes. Director, David Lean, has created one of the most memorable films and it still stands amongst the best movies in history more than 50 years after its creation. Lawrence of Arabia is the go to movie when you want to make an epic film because it has it all. My only complaint for this film is its running time (almost four hours long), but Lean deliberately directed it this way because he wanted the audience to experience the lengthy and difficult journey through the desert. The heat and the dryness of the desert transcend the film and the audience is expected to experience it first hand. It is not an easy film to watch, it requires your full attention and the pacing at times is deliberately slow. The characters are flawed and their motivations aren't always easy to follow. It is a complex film, but the journey is one worth taking. Lean took a huge risk by directing such a big film that wasn't going to be easy to produce, but the grandeur of it, is what made this such a memorable film. This is a masterpiece considering it does everything absolutely right, but it isn't exactly entertaining throughout its entire runtime. I still prefer Ben Hur, another epic film which I found much more entertaining, but I know this is a much more perfect film which delivers in all the technical aspects. When thinking of this ambitious and epic film it will be very hard to forget the gorgeous and magnificent scenery which hasn't seemed to age one bit. This is a film that could've been a disaster in the making, but Lean pulled it off masterfully delivering a masterpiece.

Based on the life of Thomas Edward Lawrence, the screenplay was successfully adapted from his autobiographical book by Robert Bolt and Michael Wilson. Lawrence (Peter O'Toole)  is a British intelligence officer serving in Cairo during World War I. He is assigned on a mission to assess Prince Faisal (Alec Guinness) who is revolting against the Turks, and therefore assisting the allies. This is where Lawrence's long journey begins. Once he meets with Prince Faisal he immediately catches his attention for being outspoken and unconventional. Against the advice of other British officials, Lawrence recommends the Prince make a surprise attack at Aqaba which was a strategic port held by the Turks. Lawrence convinces the Prince to provide him with only 50 men to make a surprise attack by land. He allows Lawrence to take some of his men led by Sherif Ali (Omar Sharif) and together they embark on another dangerous journey through the Nefud desert. On their way they encounter Auda abu Tayi (Anthony Quinn), the leader of a powerful local tribe, and Lawrence convinces his men to join the cause. Thanks to this strategic allegiance, Lawrence manages to overtake Aqaba, and soon he becomes a respected man among the Arabs and a center figure in their war against the Turks. 

The film centers on Peter O'Toole's lead performance and he delivers. He plays a complex character who makes some strategic decisions, but who also is conflicted about his allegiance to the British army. The journeys in camels across these dry and hot deserts are beautifully shot. The cinematography was way ahead of its time and the scenery was captured marvelously. The score also plays an important role in this film and it's no surprise it remains as one of the best scores in film history. Lawrence of Arabia is just a stunning film that delivers in all the categories. It won 7 Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Director, but unfortunately O'Toole and Omar Sharif didn't win for their great performances. The dynamic relationship between both their characters was also the heart and soul of this film. I'd include Anthony Quinn in the mix as well considering his character provided some well needed comedic relief. The mid section of this film was the most entertaining, while the opening and closing sequences lacked better pacing. It is an astonishing film to look at and the characters are captivating. If the film weren't so long I might have enjoyed it more, but I have to agree this is a perfectly executed epic film.


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