When David Lean's nearly four-hour epic -- about the real-life British officer who became an inspiration to England's Arab allies during World War I -- was released in 1962, it was pretty clearly the most intelligent spectacular within living memory. On its 40th anniversary, it's even better. It's not merely Freddie Young's gorgeous desert cinematography, Maurice Jarre's score, the brilliant screenplay by Robert Bolt and Michael Wilson, or the raft of great performances by Peter O'Toole (in his first starring role), Anthony Quinn, Omar Sharif, Jose Ferrer, and (sublimely stealing the film) Alec Guinness; each of those elements holds up perfectly. But, in addition, the movie is startlingly, almost frighteningly, relevant...like right now...this year...this week. Its insights into the imperial ambitions of Western countries in the Middle East ring so true that a contemporary audience can't help but gasp and even chuckle at what feel like coincidences, but are signs of a prescience that is another aspect of the movie's genius. The digitally restored print is indistinguishable in quality from what I saw the day the film opened.
David LeanPeter O' Toole, Alec Guinness, Anthony Quinn, Jack Hawkins, Omar Sharif, Jose Ferrer, Anthony Quayle, Claude Rains, Arthur Kennedy, Donald WolfitT.E. Lawrence, Robert Bolt, Michael WilsonSam SpiegelColumbia Pictures