Considered one of the greatest films ever made, certainly one of the biggest epics of all time, the tale of the controversial T.E. Lawrence came to life on the screen in 1962 and now, almost forty years later it still holds up extremely well.
The performances, the script, the directing, the cinematography, the musical score is all memorable and hasn’t aged much, though at 3.5 hours there are some times (especially in the last hour) that the story begins to drag. Lets start with the performances and O’Toole does Lawrence to a tee – not just the looks but also the slight dip into the dark side. In fact its the ambiguity of the film characters which make it so great – Lawrence is intelligent, clever and proud but is also arrogant, masochistic and stubborn.
There’s no annoying moralising points, the characters all have dubious motives and the scale is huge and brutal without ever going too far. Guiness is the most enjoyable of the cast and plays Feisal as both an honorable prince but also a scheming politician – the kind of man who smile is genuine some of the time, and hides the dagger the other part.
The cinematography is some of the most stunning ever done – no cheap “Gladiator” CG crowds here, every huge stunt and vast landscape is done in real life with some of the most amazing scenery you’ll ever see. On top of that the score, especially the unforgettable theme, creates a fantastic atmosphere.
The opening acts are interesting but its about the one-third mark where it reaches its peak with Lawrence leading a caravan over an uncrossable desert to attack the Turk-held town of Akabar. Its tense and dramatic, fantastic action and scenery, and there’s a truly great twist in the night scene just before the Akabar attack. The final third of the film (post-intermission) becomes pedantic sadly and struggles more as the scenery vanishes and Lawrence begins to crumble. Despite this somewhat fizzer of a final act, its still a true classic of a film.