Lawrence of Arabia (1962)

Thy Mother Mated With a Scorpion

I feel resentful towards Fabio for the pain that today’s movie put me through. Does that mean it was bad? Not necessarily. But the movie is ridiculously long, and Netflix found a way to make that worse for me. I’ve had bad luck with my Netflix disc service recently. I got this movie from them a long time ago and probably made it about 2 hours into the movie before the disc stopped being playable, and no amount of cleaning seemed to rectify the problem. I had to send it back, and when I received the replacement copy I put it off because of the hefty time investment that it would be. But I finally decided to watch the movie again so that I could present you with my 6 hour investment review into the movie Lawrence of Arabia, based on the life of T.E. Lawrence, written by Robert Bolt and Michael Wilson, directed by David Lean, and starring Peter O’Toole, Omar Sharif, Anthony Quinn, Alec Guinness, Jack Hawkins, Anthony Quayle, and José Ferrer.

T.E. Lawrence (Peter O’Toole) is killed in a motorcycle accident. SPOILER ALERT! Actually that happens right in the opening. Also, it happened in real life. After his death, reporters try to find out more about him at his memorial. Lawrence was a misfit in the British army during World War 1. He gets sent to speak with Prince Faisal (Alec Guinness) of the Arab nation about his revolt against the Turks. During his trek across the desert, his Bedouin guide gets killed by Sherif Ali (Omar Sharif) for drinking from his well without permission, leaving Lawrence to finish his trip alone. After meeting with Faisal, Lawrence suggests that they take their army through a treacherous desert to attack Aqaba by surprise. With the help of Howeitat leader Auda abu Tayi (Anthony Quinn), they overthrow the Turkish garrison. Following this, Lawrence leads a guerrilla war against the Turks trying to unify the Arab people.

I’m not typically a fan of really long movies, especially ones that I have to watch multiple times because people feed their Netflix discs to their dogs before sending them back. This movie ultimately becomes worth the investment, but it took me a while to realize why I didn’t mind it. It starts off very slow, being mostly talking and riding around a desert on camels. It was slow, but strangely never boring. I was always interested even though nothing significant was happening. I think what kept it so watchable was the scale of the movie. When this movie is referred to as an “epic”, it’s not hyperbole. The desert landscapes are huge, the armies are vast, and the music is awesome. The music did take part in something I found annoying though. I don’t understand the idea of the overtures in the movies. It’s mostly in older movies, but why are they still in the DVD? Do they think I liked the music so much that I want to hear it with no pictures on the screen for 5 minutes in the middle of the movie and right at the beginning? That’s boring. It seems like the orchestra taking a little time to jack themselves off in appreciation for their own talent. I guess I can’t blame them for that; it’s the same reason my reviews take so long to write. I have to stop every time I say something funny. …Hold on a sec… After the intermission, the movie picks up and becomes even more watchable. That’s when the fighting really starts, and it doesn’t really take many breaks from that for the rest of the movie.

The performances in the movie were all fantastic, but not in a way that gave me much to say about them. Peter O’Toole was the main focus of the movie of course, and he carried it on his shoulders with ease. For a while in the movie, I felt like I’d have a lot to say about the effeminate way that he portrayed Lawrence, and I thought I’d have compiled lots of gay jokes, but then I saw on Wikipedia that Lawrence did have to deal with the stigma of being gay, so I had to throw all of that out of the window. The only thing I had left after that was a question of motivation. I didn’t understand why Lawrence would get mad at Sherif for killing his guide. Obviously he probably doesn’t like the idea of not having a guide anymore, and he was probably getting attached (or attracted) to his guide by this point, but that dude had pulled a gun and started aiming it at Sherif. That’s not so much murder as it is self-defense, and it’s a little bold to be throwing around the term “murderer” for someone that’s going to become so coo-coo for killing later in the movie. For another significant thing about this movie that’s not Peter O’Toole, Alec Guinness is in this movie! I didn’t recognize him at first because I’ve only ever seen him as an old man being cut down by a lightsaber, but once I saw his name I had to touch myself again.

Though Fabio and Netflix caused me to almost double the length of an already long movie, I felt like Lawrence of Arabia was worth the time investment. Though it was really long and the first half of the movie is fairly uneventful, it remains entirely watchable with fantastic performances and epic scale. Then the second half of the movie is pretty action-packed as a reward for making it that far. The music was also fantastic, though perhaps not fantastic enough for me to enjoy while staring at a blank screen in an intermission. Either way, this is a great movie and I recommend you watch it. Lawrence of Arabia gets “The trick is not minding that it hurts” out of “Do you think I’m just anybody, Ali?”

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