The film follows the mildly-mad T.E. Lawrence as he goes about the desert trying to unite the various Arab tribes to fight against The Turks. He somehow succeeds at this, despite being a bumbling British man with no knowledge of Arabia. Perhaps this is why he succeeds. There isn't a lot of action in this movie, which I like. I'm all about "visionary" movies, which this certainly is. And this movie is epic - in the true sense of the word.
I think that when most people think about epic movies, they think about big budget Hollywood productions. Epic in cost and epic in cast, but not in anything else. Or it's an adaptation of something that is epic. "Beowulf is an epic poem, so it's an epic movie, hurf!" Ebert mentions this as well, writing, "What you realize watching ''Lawrence of Arabia'' is that the word ''epic'' refers not to the cost or the elaborate production, but to the size of the ideas and vision. Werner Herzog's ''Aguirre, the Wrath of God'' didn't cost as much as the catering in ''Pearl Harbor,'' but it is an epic, and ''Pearl Harbor'' is not" (The Great Movies, 268).
I loved Peter O'Toole. He is so beautiful and strange, and his acting is pretty incredible. Ebert writes that he comes off as gay in the movie, which I sort of got, but not as much as Ebert. I sort of found Lawrence to be really badass. I love the scene where he struts and poses on top of a captured train, his long white robes flowing around him. I love when moments later, he stands and stares, unflinching, as someone shoots at him repeatedly, trying to kill him. He's just such a weird man - he is arrogant and flamboyant but still somehow comes off as really hardcore. I loved it, he was such an unconventional hero but it just worked so perfectly.
In his essay, Ebert asserts that you cannot really experience this movie until you watch it in a theater, projected in the original 70MM. I agree to some extent. 70MM is pretty incredible. But Ebert wrote his review in 2001. A lot has happened with technology in 10 years. We went from DVD to Blu-ray, from most people owning VHS tapes and small tube TVs to most people owning high def flatscreens that dominate most of their living room. People invest in sound systems and all sorts of things, and it's easier than ever for the average person to have an incredible home video setup. We know this, and movie theaters know this, which is why they are now trying to lure people back in to watch things in 3-D. If we can all just sit and home and rent movies and they look pretty good, why pay more to go out? So while I agree that I would have preferred to see the movie in a theater, I don't think that I liked it any less watching it on my TV. It felt vast and epic and the cinematography was beautiful. The picture was clear and the color was gorgeous.
If you like epic movies like I've written about before, you must watch this. It's hard to recommend this movie, though. Not because I don't love it, but because it's so long and not full of too much, and I imagine it would make a lot of people tired. It's worth giving it a shot, though, if you ever find yourself with a lot of time to kill. I'm hoping that this is released on Blu-ray soon, as I would go and buy it immediately. David Lean's other films are out, so hopefully Lawrence is happening is as well. 70MM is pretty astounding on Blu-ray. Enough babbling about tech. If you check this movie out, let me know what you think!
Have any of you seen Lawrence of Arabia? Share your thoughts in the comments!
Ebert's Great Movie Essay on Lawrence of Arabia