Nominated for four Oscars and the winner of one, Cool Hand Luke is an anti-establishment tale of triumph of spirit set in a Florida Prison Camp. Highly decorated but jaded war veteran Lucas Jackson (Paul Newman) is sent to prison for two years after drunkenly destroying parking meters. Life inside the camp is tough but Luke endears himself to his fellow inmates thanks to his ‘never give up’ spirit and lust for life. Following a couple of failed escape attempts though the prison guards come down hard on Luke and life inside begins to take its toll.
I’d never heard of this film before a couple of weeks ago when a friend recommended it and subsequently lent it to me. Grateful as I am, had I never seen it I don’t think I would have been too bothered. For me Cool Hand Luke is a decent prison movie but nothing more. I rarely found the conditions or treatment of Luke to be overly harsh until one scene mid way through and apart from the gruelling work, life inside the jail didn’t seem that bad. What the movie gets across though is a spirit of refusal to give up or bow down which not only sits well with the 1960s period in which it was made and set but also continues to work well today.