After settling his differences with a Japanese PoW camp commander, a British colonel co-operates to oversee his men's construction of a railway bridge for their captors - while oblivious to a plan by the Allies to destroy it.
Luke Jackson is a cool, gutsy prisoner in a Southern chain gang, who, while refusing to buckle under to authority, keeps escaping and being recaptured. The prisoners admire Luke because, as Dragline explains it, "You're an original, that's what you are!" Nevertheless, the camp staff actively works to crush Luke until he finally breaks. Written by
The movie's line "What we've got here is failure to communicate" was voted as the #11 movie quote by the American Film Institute. When Frank Pierson wrote that dialog to be delivered by a an uneducated, redneck prison guard, he worried that people wouldn't find it authentic. So he wrote a biography of the guard, explaining that in order to advance to a higher grade in the system, he had been required to take criminology courses, thus exposing him to the kind of academic vocabulary that would justify him using the 'communicate' phrase. But as it turned out, no one questioned the line or needed to read the fictional account. See more »
During the fight scene with Dragline, Luke is knocked down into the dirt many times and is covered with black soil by the end. When the long shot shows Dragline walking away towards the barracks Luke has suddenly lost most of the black soil that was covering his sweat-soaked body. See more »
That's my darling Luke. He grins like a baby but bites like a gator.
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One of the reasons that the late 60s/early 70s was such a powerful era in filmmaking is the emergence of the anti-hero (defined as an individual with heroic qualities, but not in a position we would usually find a hero). This is symbolized greatly in `Cool Hand Luke'. We can identify with Luke because his crime is venial and his concerns over the great questions of life are ours. It is because of this and his persuasive charm that the other prisoners (played remarkably well by Kennedy and a host of others to include Wayne Rogers, Ralph Waite, Dennis Hopper and one of the actors who played a crewmember on `Alien') live vicariously through him.
Filled with memorable scenes (the boxing match, 50 eggs, the fealty of his fellow prisoners who help him finish his food after his stomach is shrunk in solitary confinement, `shakin' it here boss', the sneezing dogs, and of course the carwash part) and outstanding character development (created by what is said and what is not said, i.e. the visiting brother), one of screen history's most repeated lines and the great acting of Newman, this movie deserves to be called a classic. Released the same year as `Bonnie and Clyde', it makes one long for the days when you needed a real script to make a movie.
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