Have you ever started a movie and known from the very first notes of the score and very first frames of the scene that you were watching a masterpiece? I’m sure some of that just came from the reputation of David Lean’s (who also directed my recently reviewed “Bridge on the River Kwai“) “Lawrence of Arabia,” but it is nonetheless hard not to recognize the incredible achievement of this 1962 film from its earliest moments on the screen. “Lawrence of Arabia” is widely recognized as one of the true greats in the world of film. It was both a critical and financial success upon release and went on to win Academy Awards for Best Picture and Director while also taking home numerous awards recognizing the film’s technical achievements. The film boasts a stellar cast (Peter O’Toole and Alec Guinness to name two), memorable score, and truly epic set pieces. So does such a film deserve all the accolades and does it really deserve to be called a classic?
Should this film be considered a classic? There is little doubt that this movie deserves all the praises that have been heaped on it over the years. One of the things that kept me glued to my television was the incredible scope of this film. There are many massive outdoor set pieces shot with hundreds of extras that give the film a large, epic feel. However, that epic feel does not overwhelm the personal stories. Lean does a great job of pulling back for the wide shots and then bringing the viewer in close to the action for scenes that are incredibly personal and emotional. This is also a film that makes great use of the best special effects available at the time. One prime example of this are the scenes where Lawrence and Arab’s he is leading blow up a train track leading to the train derailing. The realism of the crashed train in the middle of the desert being ransacked is the type of thing that I miss in this day of CGI. The acting in this film was also very well done. Granted, I often found the obvious Britishness of many of the leading Arabs distracting, but as the film went on I noticed it less and less as I was drawn into the story. For the most part I enjoyed O’Toole’s performance but there were times when I found his scene chewing a bit over the top.
So yes, this film should definitely be considered a classic. It’s epic both in scope and length but tells the story well and rarely gets bogged down despite having a runtime of nearly 220 minutes.
Would I own this film? As much as I enjoyed and appreciated it, I don’t think I would. It’s a very memorable film but also a very long film. I find that the longest films in my collection, no matter how good they are, often get neglected. Why? Because I have a life outside of watching movies. It takes a big commitment of time to watch a movie that is well over three hours long. The film is also paced in such a way that, at least for me, I have would have to be in a certain mood to want to watch it. It’s a great film and very deserving of the accolades, but it’s not one I’m going to return to frequently. It’s still one that every film buff needs to watch because it truly is one of the finest examples of the art form that is film. On a side note, this film has also inspired many other filmmakers including George Lucas and Steven Spielberg. You can easily spot these influence in the desert sequences of the original (1977) Star Wars.