Lawrence of Arabia review

Number 84 on the top 1000 films of all time is the epic historical drama Lawrence of Arabia.

Set during the First World War, Lawrence of Arabia follows the story of T.E Lawrence (Peter O’Toole.)  Lawrence is a young upstart British officer who is sent to the Middle East to assist Prince Faisal of Iran’s (Alec Guinness) attempts to revolt against the Ottoman Empire by helping to unite the warring Arab tribes.

Call me a philistine.  Call me a culturally ignorant millennial who should go back to my Transformers and Fast and Furious films, but I didn’t like Lawrence of Arabia.  I know I’m going to get a lot of criticism for this, but I found it boring and tedious.  The film is almost four hours long! Four hours! And virtually nothing happens.  It’s just talking.  On the very few occasions that something did happen, I was so bored that I didn’t care.  So I’ve read some reviews on IMDB that said that the film is supposed to be a slow-burner.

It’s supposed to be slowly paced.  If this is the case, then why? It just served to bloat the film.  Speaking of bloated, the use of the master shot of the characters travelling through the desert was completely overdone.  I get it.  It’s supposed to demonstrate how small the characters are compared to the vast expanse of the desert, but it didn’t need to be used so many times.  You could cut an hour off the film’s run-time by excising all of the master shots.  Sergio Leone’s The Good, the Bad and the Ugly also falls victim to the same technique.  Whilst it was an initially brilliant way of setting the scene, it soon felt tiresome.  The same can be said for Lawrence of Arabia.

I also didn’t like Lawrence as a protagonist, as I found him insolent and irritating, but I can forgive this, as this is part of his story-arc and character development.  He is supposed to be initially unlikable, but then progressively becomes more and more likable, as he is changed by what he sees and what he experiences.

This then brings me onto one aspect of the film that I actually did like: morality.  I really liked how Lawrence of Arabia engaged with the theme of morality and especially with morality in wartime.  This also ties into how Lawrence became gradually more likeable as he was exposed to the atrocities of war.  His outrage at the senseless killing of his Bedouin guide, as well as his grief at the accidental death Daud: an orphan who attaches himself to Lawrence as a servant were portrayed brilliantly.  This is the same when Lawrence confesses his horror at how he enjoyed executing Gasim and the same horror he felt when leading the massacre of retreating Turkish soldiers at the end of the film.  These scenes were instrumental in portraying how the brutality of war can so deeply affect one person.  This made for some powerful and emotional viewing.

This notwithstanding Lawrence of Arabia is up there with Citizen Kane and The Seven Samurai as severely overrated, over-saturated films with unlikable protagonists.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s