If you're like me -- you
often wonder just what in the hell ever happened to the Hudson brothers -- you
might find yourself thinking, after watching David Lean's beyond-brilliant
Lawrence of Arabia, "Damn! When are they coming out with a sequel?!"
You don't. You are the savvy DVD
Talk-browsing, film-adoring, DVD-addicted movie aficionado who wouldn't dream of
it. And more power to you, because when I first came across A Dangerous
Man: Lawrence After Arabia I was instantly puzzled and aghast. Who in
Heaven or on Earth would even attempt a sequel to what is arguably one of the
ten greatest motion pictures ever filmed?
It's easy to explode with
self-righteous indignation, and it's even easier when ones does it out of
complete and utter ignorance (like I did), because this 1991 British
telefilm is not a sequel to Lean's epic. The film does
predominantly feature Colonel T. E. Lawrence (Ralph Fiennes) and Prince Feisal
(Alexander Siddig), and is set directly after the events of Lean's film. But
A Dangerous Man is as much a sequel to Lawrence of Arabia as
Peter Hyams's 2010 was a sequel to Kubrick's 2001: A Space
Odyssey. Both of the later films have similar characters and situations,
but they concentrate more on plot and narrative flow than flouirshed
storytelling and intricate character study.
(And A Dangerous Man
is also a much better movie than 2010, but that's
a whole different bucket of eggs which is quite tangential to
"The principle surely to
adopt in this matter is what is best for the Arabs, not necessarily what
they imagine they want. The British and their allies, the French, are
equally eager to offer themselves up as midwives at the birth of an Arab
nation. It seems clear to me that this conference should concern itself,
above all, with selecting which limbs of Arabia each of us should be
responsible for. "
-- British official,
"A Dangerous Man: Lawrence After Arabia"
After the end of the First
World War and the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire, the entire Middle East is
put up for grabs. At the peace talks in Paris in 1919, the victorious
governments of France and England are eager to carve up a new Arabian nation
that benefits each countries national interests. The French are eager to claim
the rich territory of Syria, while England is gunning for the oil-rich "lower
extremities" of Arabia. Throwing an unknown factor into the mix are Colonel T.
E. Lawrence and Prince Feisal, who attend the conference with the dream of
creating an Arabian state governed by Arabs, free from colonial influence.
Lawrence himself commanded the battles that led to the liberation of
Damascus, and holds fast to the promise of a free and self-governed
Arabia. The game of global dominance, spheres of influence, and colonial
powers vs. self-sovereignty is put to the test as each faction positions itself
for the most advantageous slice of the Arabian pie. In the midst of these
negotiations, we find Lawrence again struggling with his own bloated sense of
ego and self-importance, envisioning himself as a demigod of sorts during every
triumph, and withdrawing into doubt and confusion upon every setback.
Ralph Fiennes had a daunting
task by stepping into a role made world famous by Peter O'Toole, but he truly
shines magnificently as Lawrence, lending the role the right amount of
arrogance, fortitude, and uncertainty. He never channels O'Toole, but rather
plays the role as the film requires it. He wonderfully captures Lawrence as
both the mad, romantic dreamer and the conflicted, confused soul. As
Feisal, Alexandar Siddig (credited as Siddig El Fadil, whom I completely forgot
was Dr. Bashir from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine until I began writing
this review) is also a revelation. His Feisal is played significantly younger
and more impulsively than Alec Guinness's memorable performance, but with
genuine passion and conviction behind his eyes. His growing resentment with
Lawrence's constant fawning, showboating, and glory-hogging, as well as the
constant sidelining he endures from Western diplomats, is contrasted beautifully
with his steady, charismatic visage and piercing eyes. Both men provide
quite remarkable performances.
Make no mistake: A
Dangerous Man: Lawrence After Arabia is not Lawrence
of Arabia: Reloaded or Lawrence of Arabia: The Quickening. It is
entirely its own entity, and an entertaining and compelling one at
A Dangerous Man: Lawrence
is presented in its original fullframe aspect
ratio of 1.33:1. The quality of this transfer is, for the most part,
disappointing. From the opening frame, we are confronted with a picture just ripe
with shakiness, compression noise, poor contrasts, and a discernable lack of sharpness.
Although the picture gradually and significantly improves, it never approaches anything better than "acceptable"
quality. The print is riddled with numerous specks and other pieces of debris, and
colors range from deeply muted to reasonable.
The audio is presented in
2.0, and is fairly
monaural throughout, save for some occasional but noticeable expansion of the soundstage enhancing
several scenes. Dialog levels are bright and demonstrate acceptable
clarity without distortion or clipping. Orchestrations sound warm and balanced with
reasonable range. Nothing to write home about, but generally this is a
solid audio delivery.
The special features
include a series of brief if moderately informative text-based
supplements: Ralph Fiennes Profile, Alexander
Siddig Profile, Ralph Fiennes Trivia, a T. E.
Lawrence Biography, and a final section entitled T. E. Lawrence
In His Own Words.
A suitable follow-up to Lean's film and an entertaining
film in its own right, A Dangerous Man: Lawrence After Arabia
is a smart and well-made effort that continues the cinematic history of Lawrence
and Feisal in a compelling manner. Although the disc is light on extras and
sports a somewhat disappointing transfer, the film alone makes the disc worth
checking out. Perhaps not worth a purchase, A Dangerous Man: Lawrence After
a space at or near the top of your Must-Rent list.