A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this is a lavish and gripping movie, beautifully filmed, that commands your attention despite a length of nearly four hours, and a complex lead character. Although tame by modern standards, the battle scenes are still powerful, and could frighten some kids. Because of its complexity and length, this isn't a movie for young children. Mature teens will appreciate this gorgeous production.
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What's the story?
This movie chronicles the World War I experiences of T. E. Lawrence (Peter O'Toole). Early on, Lawrence gets transferred to Arabia, where he befriends Sherif Ali Ben El Kharish (Omar Sharif). At a time when the Arabs were rebelling against the Turks, Lawrence helps the Arabs. Dismissed by Prince Feisal (Alec Guinness) and his British superiors, Lawrence manages to unite Feisal's faction with that of Auda Abu Tayi (Anthony Quinn). After his success, the Allies use Lawrence in order to gain Arab cooperation against the Imperial Powers.
Is it any good?
One of the great epics of the silver screen, this is a masterpiece of direction, photography, and acting, especially from Peter O'Toole as the enigmatic British hero of the first World War. Movie buffs, patient teens, and their parents will enjoy settling in for almost four hours of cinematic magic. Most movies look better in theaters, but Lawrence of Arabia is one that demands to be seen on the big screen. You certainly wouldn't want to watch it on a small TV: the Super Panavision widescreen format requires a particularly severe letterboxing on video. And even at that, it's hard to capture the impact of the famous moment when Lawrence stares at the seemingly endless desert horizon while a distant speck gradually becomes a human rider.
Lawrence was filmed over a period of three years, under very difficult circumstances (cameras and blowing sand do not make a good match), but the results were worth it. So spectacular is the movie that most viewers are carried along despite a story that isn't as easy to follow now as it was in 1962, when audiences were more familiar with Lawrence's exploits. Similarly, the character of Lawrence will be difficult for children, as well as for many adults. He is depicted (and played brilliantly by Peter O'Toole in his first movie role) as a conflicted man, who was both repulsed and compelled by war and the role of a leader. The character is a little easier to understand if you realize, as the filmmakers expected audiences to do but weren't able to directly express, that Lawrence was also homosexual.
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