Cool Hand Luke (1967)

Genres - Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Prison Film  |   Run Time - 126 min.  |   Countries - United States  |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Review by Matthew Doberman

Paul Newman created one of the most indelible anti-authoritarian heroes in movie history with his dynamic portrayal of the title character in 1967's Cool Hand Luke. It's some of the best work of Newman's career, and he's ably backed by the excellent Strother Martin -- whose "What we've got here is a failure to communicate" speech took on a life of its own in popular culture -- and George Kennedy, who won an Oscar for the role of Dragline. Luke creates a rich portrait of prison life and the people on both sides of the corrections department. Co-writer Donn Pearce spent time on a chain gang for safe-cracking, and the work has an unmistakable authenticity. The story is ultimately about the senseless righteousness of authority, and about Luke, a man who manages to win even when he loses. The film would usher in a wave of unconventional heroes, from Bonnie and Clyde that same year to Jack Nicholson's McMurphy in 1975's One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest.