‘Epic’ is an over-used word in cinema, but David Lean’s 1962, near four-hour journey with TE Lawrence (Peter O’Toole) into the Arabian desert is surely the gold standard for films grand in scale, design and delivery. It’s 50 years since Lean chronicled the exploits of Lawrence, an unconventional British officer who struck out alone during World War I with the aid of Bedouins (including Omar Sharif in his most famous role) to fight the Turks in parts of modern Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Syria.
This digital restoration marks its anniversary. Most striking, still, are the desert scenes: battles yes, but also the film’s harnessing of the searing, inhuman heat of the sandy wilds, first introduced by Lean’s famous cut from a striking match to a rising sun. O’Toole, too, remains compelling, as he swings between arrogance and humility, confidence and doubt. You’ll need to dedicate half a day to it – but this deserves to be seen again on the big screen.