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DVDFile ate no eggs while reviewing this title.....
Warner / 127 Minutes / 1967 / Rated PG / Street Date: January 10, 2012
Paul Newman had no shortage of film credits by the end of his career, and Cool Hand Luke plays out as one of his more somber, though compelling, cinematic triumphs. In a decade which seemed defined by big budget epics intent on overwhelming moviegoers with spectacular visuals and larger than life imagery (think Ben-Hur, Cleopatra, The Sound Of Music), movies like 1967’s Cool Hand Luke took a decidedly different path with their more intimate storylines, inward-focused themes, and visuals that attempted to communicate a stark reality rather than look like paintings on a 2.35:1 canvas.
The story opens with a clearly intoxicated Luke (Newman) haphazardly vandalizing a small town’s parking meters. It doesn’t seem apparent that his intent is to steal the cash; rather, this decorated war veteran seems to be acting out a discontentment with the banality of his post-war confusion. There’s an almost existential futility about Luke’s attitude that keeps getting him into (avoidable) trouble time and time again. Luke’s independent nature isn’t daunted in the slightest when he finds himself a guest in a Florida correctional facility.
In this setting reminiscent of Stalag 17, Luke first challenges, then befriends, then becomes idolized by his incarcerated comrades who view his unwavering courage with admiring eyes. But the truth behind Luke’s seemingly rebellious escapades is rooted in a deeper struggle than his surface antics would suggest, and as the story plays out, the viewer is invited closer and closer toward this inward journey until the final climax.
Like many other excellent films that can’t be easily described, Cool Hand Luke leaves one with a mixture of emotions that seem uncomfortably at odds with each other. And in this current age of CGI-enhanced popcorn cinema, that’s a very good thing. Cool Hand Luke is an outstanding film and anyone who appreciates Paul Newman and/or films that like to push at your emotions without offering easy answers that resolve everything by the time the credits roll will also appreciate this often overlooked gem.