Cool Hand Luke (1967)
Stuart Rosenberg directed this ostensibly dark and realistic drama about an irresponsible drifter down on his luck who ends up in a Florida prison camp where he encounters both camaraderie with his peers and brutal oppression from his captors. The film is wonderfully staged and shot, with lots of dusty environments and sweaty bodies, which makes you feel the heat and hardships these guys experience (even if the inmates' daily life is more reminiscent of boot camp than prison). And like all good prison movies, Cool Hand Luke thrives on the closeness and bond between the inmates, some of whom we'd like to get to know even better (Stanton's character for instance). The script is strong, but has a somewhat too pronounced mission; it has a rebellious anti-establishment tone running through it, which is fair enough seen in light of the US' involvement in the Vietnam War at the time of production, but which also makes the film and particularly the title character come off as a bit stagy and overly symbolic at times. Paul Newman does his best in the lead, but the character doesn't seem like a real person as much as a figurehead - arguably both for the filmmakers and the other prisoners. He represents what they want to see in themselves: courage to oppose the system and a seemingly unbreakable spirit. But we never really get to know him and his disposition. The only one who really seems to get him is the George Kennedy character, but their relationship is largely fruitless, because Kennedy's performance is way over the top alongside Newman's reserved acting.