David Lean directs Peter O’Toole, Omar Sharif and Alec Guinness in this World War One epic about the eccentric English officer who united the Arab tribes against the Turks.
Another one of those “greats” that always bored me on the small screen. Maybe I needed the expansiveness of the 70mm print and the distraction forbidding atmosphere of a front row cinema seat to finally be overwhelmed by its charms. Still, I contend that the last 90 minutes are very baggy. You could end on the intermission and know all the corruption and downfall that does transpire will transpire without seeing it rumble along until the end credits. There is a majesty in seeing the desert campaign be zoomed in on a few charismatic individuals though. Place holders so you don’t get lost in the melee of exotic war. Lean truly puts you in the wastelands and camel calvary dashes, never letting you get trampled among the extras. The scale is authentic, unlike other so called “cast of thousands” blockbusters, you never feel as though the shots end just outside the camera’s frames. There is a lost patience in just letting the viewer stare at swathes of yellow and blue, waiting for the specks of humanity to emerge from within them. A patience missing from modern tentpoles, an awe we are depriving ourselves of. And as specks go both O’Toole and Sharif make their marks as men trying to come to terms with their historical destinies. Even in optimum viewing conditions though, that second half does drag, anchoring the entire experience from entering into my own high esteem, even if the general consensus disagrees and adores it.