Watch Lion of the Desert
- 3 hr 26 min
In the early 20th century, the Italian fascist government attempted to colonize Libya, and the last resistance of the Libyan people was led by Omar Mukhtar, played by Anthony Quinn, in the epic biographical war film Lion of the Desert. Set between 1929 and 1931, the film depicts the conflict between the only remaining free Libyan people and the fascist government of Italy, currently under the rule of Benito Mussolini. The film follows the struggles and triumphs of Omar Mukhtar as he leads his people in a guerilla war against the occupying Italian forces.
The Italian general Rodolfo Graziani, played by Oliver Reed, is appointed by Mussolini as Governor of Libya, and he is given the task of ending the rebellion. Graziani proceeds to employ all sorts of violent measures to quell the rebellion, including the use of nerve gas and concentration camps. His atrocities lead to Mukhtar leading his people in a fierce battle against the cruel and unjust Italian forces.
The film portrays Mukhtarâs rise within his community, from being an oasis teacher, shepherd and warrior to leading his people in a revolutionary fight for their sovereignty. His character is depicted as wise, dignified, and spiritual, portraying an honorable and free character who fought for his people's rights.
Throughout the film, Mukhtar refuses to surrender, even after many of his soldiers fall under an Italian-sponsored bombing, which leads Graziani to perceive him as a terrorist. It is his courage, values, and dedication that are the driving forces of the Libyan people, who would follow him to the ends of the earth to win back their land's freedom.
The stellar performances of the leading cast members are on full display, with Anthony Quinn as Omar Mukhtar being at the heart of the movie. Quinn's performance is evenly measured throughout, portraying the wisdom and bravery needed for the role. Oliver Reed shines as Graziani, playing the villainous role with ease, with his character epitomizing the cruelty, greed, and the staunch belief in the fascist ideology.
The supporting cast is filled with seasoned actors and actresses. Rod Steiger plays the character of a Libyan ex-pat who transitions to work for Graziani, and he gives a distinctive performance with his European accent and sharp wit. Renowned British character actor John Gielgud makes an appearance in the film as an elderly, wise Bedouin who guides Mukhtar throughout his struggle. Other notable appearances are made by Irene Papas as Mukhtarâs wife, Raf Vallone as the Pope, and a young Houda Rihani.
The battle scenes in the movie are expertly crafted, with some of the biggest practical sets made in the history of the film industry. The filmmakers opted not to use visual effects as was the norm for the time, using actual tanks and planes in their strikes and battles to create a more realistic experience.
As well as the battle scenes, the film also portrays the different cultures, rituals, and traditions of the Libyan people expertly. The vast expanse of the desert acts as both a symbol and a character in the movie, with sweeping shots that showcase the vast and beautiful landscape of Libya, bringing to life the peoples' relationship with their land.
In conclusion, Lion of the Desert is an epic and inspiring movie that portrays the struggle for freedom and human dignity. The movie celebrates the bravery, resistance, and unwavering spirit of Mukhtar and his people as they fought for their land and freedom against the fascist regime. The attention to detail, historical accuracy, and the heartwarming performances make this movie a must-watch for anyone who loves historical epics.
Lion of the Desert is a 1981 history movie with a runtime of 3 hours and 26 minutes. It has received mostly positive reviews from critics and viewers, who have given it an IMDb score of 8.2.