Cool Hand Luke

I was in the mood for a movie on this dark and cloudy and thundery afternoon.  My latest Netflix movie choice (“High School Musical”) has not arrived.  Netflix DOES have a “watch it now” feature.  So I scrolled through the movies that were available, and came across “Cool Hand Luke”.  It’s the character Johnathan Trager’s favorite movie in one of MY favorite movies “Serendipity”, so I thought I’d watch it.

I’m not sure what the message of this movie was!  And it surely seemed to be a story that was trying to get a message across.  There’s definite Christ imagery surrounding the character “Luke”.  The character at one point is laid out on a table in a crucifix position, feet crossed and everything.  The character escapes jail and is a hero.  He is recaptured and his spirit is broken and the other prisoners turn their backs on him.  He escapes again and seeks solace in a church where he refers to God as “my old man” and has a “why have you forsaken me” sort of conversation with the ceiling.  He ends up being shot and is driven away, to his death, smiling.  And he is once again a hero with the other inmates.  His final escape with his dying the way he lived – smiling – gives them some sort of salvation.  I’m not sure if that was the message.

In addition to all the Christ imagery are a parallel themes of how some just need to be free regardless of the cost.  Of how some need boundaries that enclose them tightly to feel safe and powerful.  Etc.

Regardless, there were two things that I loved about the movie.  Paul Newman was really good looking in it.  And the color palette that the director used was spectacular…all silvery blues and grays and  golds and browns.  Gorgeous.  See what I mean?

So, have you seen “Cool Hand Luke”?  What did you think of it?  What did you walk away from it with as far as “meaning” is concerned?  And did you appreciate the colors as much as I did?  🙂


About Lou (Linda)

Just a girl from Colorado trying to live life to God's glory with a certain amount of gusto! View all posts by Lou (Linda)

4 responses to “Cool Hand Luke

  • philosopherouge

    I can’t say I found much deeper meanings than you have. It’s clear that Luke is a christ figure, but why, or how isn’t quite clear. Not to say I didn’t like the film, it’s wonderfully acted, and the cinematography is beautiful. Luke is really one of the best “anti-heroes” to hit the screen, although I wish perhaps they pushed it a little more, push the limits of what the audience will accept. Some have asked if one could relate to Luke if he were in prison for something more serious like armed robbery, or murder… and honestly I think if we consider the far more popular “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” where Nicholson character is guilty of statutory rape, the answer is clearly yes. Then again, maybe in the petiness of his crime, and Luke’s ordinariness we find our answer of the Christ allegory. Here is a man who couldn’t be more ordinary, he’s almost pathetic.. and yet he somehow inspires the people around him to be better people, although not necessarily in the traditional sense of the phrase. My favourite moment is probably Newman singing Plastic Jesus, gets me everytime.

  • philip norris

    the whole christ thing in this movie has always bothered me. you sit there watching this really great movie and suddenly it warps into this christ thing at the end of the movie. it almost ruins the movie. in fact it does ruin the movie. the whole movie except for the last half hour or so of that christ thing is about luke’s way of confronting life. if i remember correctly, it opens with him cutting off the meters from parking meter poles while in a drunken stupor. his only way of “raging against the machine” is to preform this act of futility. he is immediately on the outs with the prison “tough guy” when he gets to prison which precipitates the fight scene in which he wins the fight by getting the s–t kicked out of him over and over and over because he refuses to stop the futile act of continually getting up. in the poker scene he wins the big pot with no cards in his hand by the futile act of continually “kicking a buck”. luke throughout the movie never gives up while committing his acts of futility. the futile act of paving the road at a breakneck pace(they’d just be out there again the next day paving away so why the rush) leads to a half of a day of doing nothing but relaxing. so what do we learn from luke in this movie until the christ thing muddies the clarity of this movie. the lesson of this movie is luke’s approach to his futile life. “rage against the machine”, never ever give up. and when you’re beaten down, with no hope, and there is no escaping your certain and inevitable demise, when you are spent and all that is left to you is nothing, you throw that at the world too!!! after all “sometimes nothing can be a pretty cool hand”. cool hand luke is one of my all time favorite movies-i don’t even watch that last half hour christ thing anymore.

  • Brad L

    To follow on the others’ leads, as I believe they’ve done a good job of hitting a lot of the key points… I’ll just speak to the Chist metaphor.

    To sum up, I’ve always felt that it could be distilled into one simple thought… Luke is a messiah of misfits. Tormented and ultimately crucified for what is his essential crime, not fitting into the machine.

    He’s not a bad guy. In fact, we find he’s probably a very good man… but he just doesn’t fit into “the system.” He’s a man who has trouble living down to the workaday cubbyhole world, and his inability (and I think that word is key, it’s nothing so simple as unwillingness… He can’t, even if he wanted to) to do so pushes him farther and farther to the outliers, until he reaches his ultimate demise.

    He can’t exist in the system, and they can’t let him exist outside of it… Such men threaten the status quo, because they “give good men bad ideas.” The chain gang is just a metaphor or microcosm of the shrunk-down world and it’s order and authorities that require men to fit themselves into it. Luke is just representative of the ‘bent cogs’ that disrupt its orderly operation and must be removed.

    Nice! Thanks for your addition to the other thoughts here. — Lou

  • BIll D.

    Cool Hand Luke as the image of Christ? Hardly. Luke is only like every man — searching for purpose and meaning in life. He seeks, but doesn’t find it in drunkenness or rebellion. He fights life it to the finish — only to be defeated time and time again. He tries to be cool, and as much as he tries to deny it and make it on his own, he knows there is something bigger than him. “Just a Closer Walk with Thee”, and “Plastic Jesus” are two songs in the movie that reflect his latent attempts to find God. In the end, when all is lost, he reaches out to the “old Man”. Did he find Him before he died? Only God knows.

    Bill, thanks much for your input. I love movies where different people walk away with such different impressions and meanings. — Lou

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