Deeper and more complex than it at first appears
William Sommerwerck | Renton, WA USA | 06/10/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)
"All art reflects, to some degree, its era. "Cool Hand Luke" appeared at a time when people were increasingly losing their respect for authority. So it's natural to see Lucas Jackson as a rebel against the establishment, and nothing more.
But Lucas is, in a way, a lot less -- "A 'nothing' hand can be cool". As he says to Dragline, "I've never planned anything in my life." He has no goal or purpose, moving aimlessly from one thing to another (we learn he was promoted several times in the Army, but demoted to buck private before discharge), and the crime for which he's sentenced -- "decapitating" parking meters -- is a pointless prank committed during an evening of drunken boredom.
Lucas's only purpose is to defy authority, and he does that right well. /Why/ isn't clear, but one could assume his motivation is "If my life has no constructive purpose, I might as well give the bird to the powers that be".
One can also view Lucas as self-destructive. His sharp wit is not only that of an intelligent person, but of a morbid person. (I know this from personal experience.) And when his sweet mother -- who loves him, as she says, for no reason at all -- dies, his decline begins in earnest. It can be argued that his repeated attempts to escape are attempts to get himself killed. Which is what happens. (Didn't you know that?)
Luke is neither hero nor anti-hero. He is a man who sacrifices himself on society's cross because he doesn't really fit in anywhere -- it's the only thing he /can/ do. And society is happy to oblige his desire for self-destruction.
No doubt about it, this is a great film.
The Blu-ray transfer is generally excellent, showcasing the outstanding cinematography, both in and out of the studio. The only disappointment is having to hear Lalo Schiffrin's imaginative score in mono. The "making of" featurette is outstanding, way-above-average for this sort of thing.
PS: The correct phrase is "What we have here is... failure to communicate." There is no 'a'."