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83 of 91 found the following review helpful:
It's sweltering out there, in there, anywhere Nov 28, 2002
By Mercy Bell
This movie is anything but cool. The characters are rough, foul, and awkward. The setting is realistic and harsh. It takes place in the scorching sun and humidity. There's many a scene of sweat and overheating men. Luke, though, is cool. He's the figure of composure; he's classy, smart, proud, and witty, but he rarely talks, keeping aloof. Or he's independent free man who won't let anyone get him down.
There's a scene when he bluffs his way to victory in a poker match, thus his nickname "cool hand Luke". Another scene has him fighting with another inmate until he's nearly unconscious, but he never surrenders. Yet another has him eating 50 eggs in an hour for a bet, and he doesn't give up. And I think this is the metaphor for the rest of the film. You can either see him as a cocky stubborn man, or more appropriately, a man who won't give up his freedom. He's thrown in prison and chain gang labor for a case of petty vandalism during a drunken stupor, yet he never utters a word about it, even during the most humiliating or painful punishment, but his conviction and sentence are hardly a matter in this film. Here is a man who is troubled and dysfunctional (as the story slightly exposes), but is already in an advanced state of personal freedom. Though he'd like to be living a normal life, searches for it, and deserves as much, he doesn't need it. He's spiritually and mentally invincible, and eventually it leads to his ultimate fate.
Cool Hand Luke is a marvelous film. It's one fourth romantic, three fourths gritty reality. Paul Newman and the gorgeous cinematography are the romance. Newman nearly carries the film. Here's this movie star, a charismatic leading man who liberally uses his smile to get himself through scenes, but he immerses himself into his character. I think Luke is one of the greatest, most complex male characters to grace the screen, and Newman is really the only actor who could ever do him justice. But he isn't playing Newman, he's playing Luke, every inch of Luke. He IS Luke, he is this renegade rebel, this charming dapper Dan, and this tragic everyman. Newman's supporting cast is superb, in one of the best acted films I've ever seen. George Kennedy is incredible as the only sizable supporting character, though the rest of the cast do their utmost to fit their roles, especially the various sinister and slimy wardens, and they do it beautifully. No actor wastes his time on screen. They create the atmosphere.
I just have to mention the dialogue. This is one of those films with incredible dialogue. Nothing is sappy or soupy. It embraces wit and logic, a lovely razor sharpness, and a down to earth realism. Every sentence is perfectly placed, there are no superfluous words, every character with they're own style that still allow them to sound like real people. End of dialogue discussion.
This film is simple. It's simply told, simply filmed, and on the outside it's a simple story, but I think it delves a lot deeper than at first appearance. It's unpretentious. Without us knowing it paints an environment, it paints a setting. It's a movie with certain faintly stylized points and flourishes, with a bit of a Southern storytelling air and lilt to it, and a definite love for fun. But it's intense, from the acting, to plot twists and character developements, to minor "action" sequences (a movie populated by inmates and movie stars has to have some excitement), it has incredible depth in it's subtle symbolism and it's layered messages and it's performances with their emotional tapestries. Thus, it has an immense replayability quotient.
This is drama at it's finest. It is a complex intriguing film that can get under your skin in it's rawness, but can still entertain you, and send you into that dreamy mesmerized state of being in awe of a film and the characters portrayed in it.
41 of 48 found the following review helpful:
My favorite movie of all time. May 18, 2000
And I really mean it. They used to show this film often on the Superstation. When I was twelve, I watched it; the next time it came on, I taped it, and watched it probably more than 50 times over the next few years (I didn't know for a long time that the TV version has several scenes cut out for length, so getting it on video was a new revelation). What is it about "Cool Hand Luke" that is so moving? Well, it starts with Paul Newman's performance. Lucas Jackson is one of the most psychologically complex characters in the history of cinema, and Newman, criminally denied the Oscar for this film, makes him seem larger-than-life without saying much. Everything that comes out of his mouth is a revelation. The Christ allusions, which are fittingly done, heighten the sense of injustice that Luke is being slowly crucified by the lawmen, simply because he won't bend to their rules. On the surface, Luke seems self-destructive and ignorant, but in repeated watchings of the film, it becomes apparent that Luke is answering to a call that is bigger than the prison, bigger than the bosses, bigger than the law itself. I could go on and on about the myriad other ways in which this film is perfect, but why bother? I only get 1,000 words. Suffice it to say that this is the movie that makes George Kennedy, of all people, seem noble. YOU MUST SEE THIS FILM. The only flaw: I grew up in Georgia, and I can assure you that it is not filmed where it is set. Looks more like the Central Valley of California to me.
29 of 34 found the following review helpful:
"Sometimes nothing can be a real cool film." Feb 15, 1999
The first time I saw "Cool Hand Luke" I was not overly immpresed with it. I thought he was a "punk" who had desevedly fallen on hard luck.I have since seen the movie ten-twelve times. I think a lot can be learned about "Luke" (Paul Newman)in the scene when his mother goes to visit him. It is clear that he always wanted to please his mother, but he ended up more like his father. Arletta(Luke's mother) makes allusions to Luke's father not being good at sticking around. From the start, there have been many people who have left Luke far behind. The girl from Kentucky, all of his mates, he lost in the War, and finally his mother when she passed on. This was the "final straw" so to speak. Luke was going to run for sure. The true beauty of "Luke's" character was the fact that he was able to give many people, hope without having any of his own. He makes two references to "The Man Upstairs". Once in the rain asking his to just let him know that he is up there, and another time letting him know that he felt cheated. Every man in that camp loved and respected "Luke". "Dragline"(George Kennedy)called Luke "a natural born world shaker". I could not have put it any better myself. I felt this was a top-notch screen play, and the acting was incredible. I have not seen Newman give a better performance. Kennedy was well deserving of the "best supporting actor" Oscar. Look closely for Dennis Hopper, Joe Don Baker, Harry Dean Stanton and many others. This film should be on everyone's must see list.
7 of 7 found the following review helpful:
An underrated classic Sep 19, 2005
By Mikey A.
I've seen this movie many times and caught it on TV again this weekend, only reminding me what a classic it is, easily among the best of all time.
Paul Newman plays Luke, an unbreakable spirit trapped in a place, and among men, determined to break him. That spirit, though, is as much his strength as it is his burden. As the story progresses, the audience comes to identify, not so much with Luke himself, but with his prisonmates. We're in silent awe of his guts when he won't stay down in the fight scene with George Kennedy, we root for him on the edge of our seats during the oft-referenced egg eating scene, we watch with pity as he digs and fills the ditch - the guards working him to the breaking point, and we cheer like mad as he takes off in the same guards' truck, shackles be damned.
It could easily be regarded as Newman's best acting. I wouldn't disagree with that, but won't go that far myself only out of respect for his other all time great performances (e.g. The Hustler, Butch Cassidy, The Color of Money, The Verdict, and so on).
Also, as a "prison movie", as much as I hate to lump this classic into such a narrow sub-genre, it is by far the best I've seen and its influence on future films of that genre, the good ones and the bad ones (e.g. Escape From Alcatraz, The Shawshank Redemption, and so on), is blatantly obvious.
In short . . . a classic, definitely in my personal top ten of all time.
22 of 28 found the following review helpful:
Sometimes Nothin' is a real Cool Hand Sep 26, 2005
By Mark J. Fowler
"Let's Play Two!"
Paul Newman portrays Lucas Jackson, an iconic film anti-hero, in this classic film.
Luke seems to have wandered aimlessly after winning several medals in WWII, and in the beginning of the film he's arrested for "maliciously destroying municipal property" - using a pipe cutter to cut the heads off of parking meters.
The film has little exposition and in the next scene plunges our anti-hero in the middle of Division of Corrections, Road Prison 36, in the south. Strother Martin plays the "Cap'n", the warden of this group, and Luke is instructed that all the other guards are to be called "Boss". The bosses are frighteningly sadistic. Morgan Woodward is terrifying as "the man with no eyes". He speaks no words from behind his mirror sunglasses, but has a rifle brought to him every so often so that he can demonstrate his sharp-shooter accuracy.
George Kennedy won Best-Supporting Actor Oscar as "Dragline", bull of the herd of prisoners. Dragline leads the group, running gambling and the small barracks "bank", and all the other prisoners follow his example and look to him as the source of what little self-respect they have.
Luke and Dragline knock heads, figuratively and later on, literally, when Dragline beats Luke nearly unconscious in a brawling boxing match. Dragline and the other prisoners live a pretty vivid fantasy life. They blow-up the smallest slivver of hope into a bright shining ray of hope. In a famous scene the prisoners are working just down the road from a beautiful blonde who stretches and teases and caresses the car she is washing with a soaped up sponge (this scene has been copied many times since in more juvenile films). The other prisoners immediately attach themselves to the fantasy image of "Lucille". She is just some innocent, beautiful girl who "didn't know what she was doin'" while she postured her curvy side for the men. "Oh, she knew what she was doing, and she loved every minute of it", Luke states plainly, bursting the fantasy balloon of the other prisoners. This leads to the famous boxing match with Dragline.
Luke is insolent and rebellious and talks back to the Bosses in a way the other prisoners wouldn't dare. He gradually earns the respect of the other prisoners, and one of the best scenes of the film occurs at a poker game where Dragline finally comes to respect Luke and gives him his nickname.
Luke doesn't want responsibility, even the responsibility of the admiration of the prisoners. The film charms it's way under your skin, though, and it's very easy to lose the perspective that by the end you've spent the entire movie rooting for a man who by almost any other definition would be a loser.
Paul Newman has seldom been better.
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