Review: Lawrence of Arabia (1962)


Be prepared for a lot of desert, just be prepared for a lot!

Screenplay By: Robert Bolt & Michael Wilson
Directed By: David Lean

Unlike Lawrence of Arabia, I am going to endeavor to keep my review short and sweet. First things first, Lawrence of Arabia is a good movie. It is gorgeous to look at with brilliant shots of the desert and wonderful character placement shots. The acting is top notch, Peter O’Toole introduced himself to the world in this film and he did a magnificent job of saying hello. The rest of the cast is rounded out by stellar performances from Anthony Quinn, Alec Guinness, Omar Sharif, Claude Rains, and more. The story, when it actually matters, is compelling and draws you in.

Now, I know what you are thinking, that was a lot of hyperbole and statements of a stellar nature, so you must be saying Lawrence of Arabia is a stellar movie. If you think that, you would be wrong. It is a stellar looking movie and a tremendously acted movie, but it is far from a stellar movie. I know some people don’t like this complaint, but Lawrence of Arabia is far, far too long. At about two hours and forty five minutes into the film I began to look at my screen and beg for the movie to end, just end already. Lawrence of Arabia also suffers from the completely unnecessary use of beginning overture and middle intermezzo musical segments. All they help to do is prolong a movie that is too long to begin with. Not everyone will agree on my length issues, but I found myself infuriated with the unnecessary length of Lawrence of Arabia and unfortunately bored at various points because of the unneeded length.

While I did love Mr. O’Toole’s performance and thought he did a great job of subtly pulling off the transformation and torture that Lawrence goes though, I didn’t think the narrative was cohesive enough to go along with Mr. O’Toole’s performance. The narration is cliché ridden and would abruptly cut off for looks at the desert landscape. Lawrence of Arabia did go to dark places in regards to race relations, politics, war, and even homosexuality. The problem with Lawrence of Arabia was that it never went deep enough into any of those areas and in the end came across like a film that sure looked beautiful but didn’t actually have much to say.

Based on what I have read over the years I realize my views on Lawrence of Arabia are along the lines of sacrilege, so shoot me! Like a lot of other epics, Lawrence of Arabia has many, many great qualities, but it is bogged down by the weight of its own believed import. It is bloated and beautiful at the same time. I would recommend Lawrence of Arabia because it is a landmark film that needs to be seen, but I can’t recommend it as a great film, nor as a movie someone should take in all in one sitting.



Bill Thompson

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