Thursday 21 February 2013
Cool Hand Luke 
American mood, and in turn cinema, in the 60s and 70s were marked by anti- establishmentarian spirit. Cool Hand Luke, thus, was a quintessential film of its era, with its tale of a naturally rebellious individual at odds with overbearing authority. The allegorical story centered on the eponymous Luke (Paul Newman), a war veteran, who is sentenced to 2 years of imprisonment for an act of drunken vandalism. The prison is run by a group of ruthless jailers led by a slimy Warden (Strother Martin). The inmates, who work as a chain gang, slowly and eventually warm up to him on account of his delightfully unpredictable nature, with his biggest supporter being their brash and imposing leader (George Kennedy). And then he escapes from prison, and to add salt to wound, keeps escaping each time he’s caught. Thus, the more he steps on his irreverence and non-conformism, the more he becomes a symbol of freedom and hope for others, and the more he alienates the authority. The best part of this tragi-comic character study was that, the director neither turned it into a social message movie nor portrayed Luke as a product of social injustice. He is what he is, and that’s what made him such a memorable character. This was an out and out Newman vehicle and he gave a effortlessly endearing performance; the rest of the cast, and in particular Martin whose character came to represent the seemingly irreconcilable generational gap of the times, was good as well. Dennis Hopper, who would go on to make the iconic anti-establishment film Easy Riders, played a small role here.
Director: Stuart Rosenberg
Genre: Drama/Prison Drama/Escape Drama