Cool Hand Luke
Directed by Stuart Rosenberg. US. 1967. PG. 126 minutes. Warner. Digital.
Sun., June 5, 2016
Cool is definitely the word for Paul Newman, in this beautifully rendered film about a charismatic loner who is sent to a chain gang in the deep South. (His crime? Beheading parking meters while in a state of euphoric inebriation.) As he gradually and sometimes gruelingly wins the respect of the other prisoners, through his ability to take the toughest of punishments and his unwillingness to be cowed, he displays a spirit that wont be broken. This, of course, is an affront to the prison authorities, especially after he stages some clever and funny escapes. Despite the basically downbeat nature of the films subject matter, Newmans handling of the role (as well as some near-hilarious set-pieces) provides a light-hearted element that keeps the film on a positive track. (For example, his off-handed acceptance of the challenge to eat fifty hard-boiled eggs, just because nobodys ever done it.) Newman was nominated for an Academy Award for this film (and shoulda won!), and George Kennedy won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for playing a brutal convict who grows to respect him. Others in the cast include such stalwart character actors as: Joe Don Baker, Dennis Hopper, Harry Dean Stanton, Ralph Waite, and Strother Martin (as the captain of the guards who utters the immortal line, What we have here…is a failure to communicate.) And what we have here is a damn fine movie. (Bill Roth)