this is one of the most engaging and compelling prison films you’ll ever see. this one definitely ranks up there with such great prison films as “the great escape(1963)”, “papillon(1973)”, “the shawshank redemption(1994)”, birdman of alcatraz(1962)”, etc. it is brilliantly directed by stuart rosenberg, who made memorable films such as “the amityville horror(1978)”, “brubaker(1980″, “the drowing pool(1975)”, etc. “cool hand luke” is by far his finest and most memorable film. its amazing how rosenberg punctuates this film with christian symbolisms.
paul newman stars as lucas jackson aka “cool hand luke” , a nonconformist recalcitrant who does whatever he wants regardless of the law. his transgressions(cutting top off parking meters, among other things) land him in a rough southern prison camp. once confined, his devil-may-care rebelliousness doesn’t cease. in fact, he becomes even more unruly, especially after his ailing mother passes away. he constantly clashes with fellow inmates, and a sadistic warden(played chillingly by strother martin) there are stars and there are screen actors like paul newman, whose iconic presence and immense acting prowess regularly transcend even the best material in which he works. newman’s magnetic personality lends the film the weight its relatively simple story struggles 2 nobly support.
fraught with legendary lines(most notables ones being: “what we have here is failure 2 communicate!”, “i tried 2 live always free and above board like you but I can’t seem 2 find no elbow room”) and unforgettable scenes(the egg-eating bet, the prison yard fisticuff, et al), “cool hand luke” exists as an iconic work in and of of itself, deceptively light in meaning but definitely full of cultural and countercultural significance. a great deal of the film’s considerable charm stems from its impressive cast of supporting actors, a constingent of recognizable faces that includes a young dennis hopper, harry dean stanton, and george kennedy, as newman’s rival turned admirer/right-hand man.
the academy award 4 best supporting actor went 2 george kennedy 4 his portrayal of the naive tough guy dragline. however, at the heart of the film is paul newman’s quitely charismatic performance, which showcased the actor at the top of his game and propelled him toword the peak of his popularity. short on soliloquies, newman’s luke doesn’t telegraph his every move or even clarify his motives. he seems almost 2 have sought out of prison as an arbitrary challenge, inviting a conflict with the system 2 see if he can win. in fact, it isn’t until close 2 the film’s conclusion that the toll of inprisonment has taken on the free-spirited luke becomes clearer. unlike the rest of the prisoners, luke steadfastly rejects the institutional conformity that comes with inprisonment, and his uncooperative stance ultimately leads 2 tragedy. if “cool hand luke” is partly about how far one man can push the system, its also about what happens when the same system pushes back. see this film is you haven’t done so already. Continue reading