Jarrod Emerson’s Tribute to Omar Sharif
Part 2: LAWRENCE OF ARABIA (1962)
Based on true events, the film chronicles the colorful “Lieutenant T.E. Lawrence” (Peter O’Toole) through his service in the British army during World War I, and the crucial role he played in the alliance between British and Arab forces in the Arabian Peninsula. The Arab Bureau has assigned the non-conformant, but knowledgeable Lawrence to report on “Arab Prince Faisal’s” (Alec Guinness) revolt against Turkish rule. Rather than merely assess, the ever-insolent Lawrence passionately injects himself into the situation, leading Faisal and his men into several victories, achieving what his superiors could not. However, none of this could prepare Lawrence for the harsh realities of war, as his conflicting loyalties take a heavy emotional toll.
Where to begin? This masterful epic from the legendary filmmaker David Lean, may be over 50 years old, but it has hasn’t aged one day! Thematically and athletically Lawrence Of Arabia succeeds on practically every level thanks to energetic passion present in front of and behind the camera. The film boasts one of the most stellar casts in cinema history, ranging from celebrated veterans like Alec Guinness and Claude Rains, to relative unknowns like Peter O’Toole and of course, Omar Sharif. As Lawrence, O’Toole is nothing short of spectacular. To call the character interesting is an understatement. Multilayered and complex, Lawrence may achieve the impossible, but his motives are not always clear, and he even begins to question his own actions, such as when he is forced to execute a former ally to settle a tribe dispute. For better or worse, he operates on a completely different level than any of his comrades. However, he soon proves he may just be what both the English and the Arabs need in order to achieve victory amidst their uneasy alliance.
Which brings us to Omar Sharif’s role of Sheriff Ali. Ali proves one of the many obstacles Lawrence will face in his journey. As previously mentioned, the encounter at Ali’s drinking well may be one of the greatest character intros in history. This frightening encounter sets the stage for an intense, turbulent relationship between the two men, easily one of the film’s strongest dynamics. When he meets Prince Faisal, Lawrence learns that the Prince and his men have suffered a major defeat. Contradicting the advice of British Colonel Brighton, Lawrence proposes a risky surprise attack on the port city of Aqaba, which would allow the British offload supplies. Having convinced Faisal to lend him fifty men to cross the perilous Nefud desert, Lawrence’s plan is met with skepticism by Ali, who becomes irate on the journey when Lawrence insists on going back to rescue a stranded aide. In one of the most powerful scenes, Lawrence rejoins the group, having barely managed to rescue the aide, as the caravan cheers, Ali has a newfound respect for Lawrence, even providing him with native robes. Throughout the rest of the film, Ali manages to guide Lawrence through some of his darkest hours. Easily one of the richest, most powerful epics ever produced, Lawrence Of Arabia is a timeless, genre-defining story that deals with many themes.