Only a few years after his role in the movie "Hud", Paul Newman is back playing a rebellious character again, only this time set inside a prison. And not just an ordinary prison; a chain gang prison, somewhere in the rural, southern part of America.

This movie has a very simple and very straightforward approach really but some movies really don't need much more than that. It's simplicity is actually what helps to movie forward and the reason why you remain glued to the screen. It's s true compelling movie, about real characters, kicking against authority.

You could say it's a slow moving movie but it actually never really feels that way. There is always something happening, whether it be on the screen or in the character's heads. It's what really gets you into the characters and make you care about them. Yes, they are small time criminals but only because society regards them that way. You could also say that they are free minds, who don't simply want to life by the moral standards of modern society and don't want to play by the rules. People who say that the movie and its story is just pointless because they don't see what exactly message the movie was trying to get across should really watch this movie again, with a clear and open mind. With all respect but there is so much in this movie and to its main characters that it's really ludicrous to call this movie a boring or pointless one.

The way the Luke character is set up and gets portrayed by Paul Newman makes him such a great and true rebellious character. By being different he actually slowly start to gain the respect of his fellow prisoners and as a viewer you can also really understand why. You'll slowly start to understand the character better and why he does the things the way the does. Unlike the authorities, you don't condemn him for the things he has done and does in this movie.

But really the movie still would had not been as compelling and great to watch, if it wasn't for its directing approach as well. Even though its 1967 movie, it has '70's style written all over it. I really loved some of the movie sequences and was really impressed with the movie its look as well. It has some great cinematography in it by Conrad L. Hall, who lets the camera move a lot and gives us some great looking compositions as well. I was disappointed to learn that it didn't even got nominated for an Oscar but perhaps that was also due to it that Conrad L. Hall was already also nominated for a different movie that year and the other acclaimed cinematographer Robert Surtees got nominated for two different movies already. Having only three different cinematographers compete would perhaps had been a bit too measly. But having said that; this movie its cinematography would had totally deserved to win and is worthy of all of its praise.

But luckily the movie did not got completely ignored by the Academy. It did receive 4 nominations but George Kennedy would be eventually the only one that also got to take the statue home with him. Quite funny, I never looked at George Kennedy thinking he was an Oscar worthy actor but after having him seen in this movie, I can't really complain about him winning.

Perhaps the biggest surprise remains that this was more or less a one hit wonder from director Stuart Rosenberg. Prior to this movie, he had only mainly worked for television and after this movie, he never really delivered a movie of the same grandeur and stature again. It's why his name also probably won't ring a bell, unless to those who have seen the original "The Amityville Horror" perhaps. But it should tell you enough already about his career that the only movie people are still familiar with now days, next to "Cool Hand Luke" is the '70's horror production "The Amityville Horror". A real mystery and surprise to me, since this movie shows so much class and talent, it is hard to understand why he never came close to that same level again.

A real must-see movie, in my opinion.


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About Frank Veenstra

Watches movies...writes about them...and that's it for now.
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