Rebellion was a common theme in the films of the late 60’s and early 70’s, yet none of the cinematic rebels of that time was quite like Cool Hand Luke. As played by Paul Newman (who conveys more with a simple smile than most might with pages of dialogue), Luke wasn’t interested in setting the world on fire, and he wasn’t looking for truth, justice or the American way. In fact, it seemed to me that all Luke really wanted was to be left alone.
While watching Cool Hand Luke, I was reminded of another movie rebel, Jack Nicholson’s Randall P. McMurphy from the 1975 award-winning film, One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Like Luke, McMurphy entered a situation of quiet complacency and proceeded to turn everything upside-down. But where McMurphy fought the system by shouting at it, Luke did it all pretty quietly, never shaking his fist or making big speeches. His fellow inmates liked to say that Luke was a real world shaker, but the truth is Luke just kinda stood still; it was the world around him that did the shaking.
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