Cool Hand Luke is a timeless classic that pits the oppressed against the powerful, unfair, and evil establishment. The story here is the same as it is through all facets of society. The imagery and acting are as good as it gets with Paul Newman and George Kennedy holding up their ends of the movie with skill and class. The setting is in a prison in the south. A chain-gang is the rule of prisons during the time and Luke refuses to conform to the rules that he is compelled to live through. He escapes many times during the movie just to be caught again. Each time he is returned to the prison the inmates cheer his tenacity while the prison captain and guards work harder and harder to break him.
This man against the establishment movie could be told in any time, with any topic, and the hero would still be cheered on and the enforcers booed. Luke has his back up against the wall but refuses to take it lying down.
The famous line from the movie has resonated through time. Failure to communicate is the core of all problems and this movie personifies this failure through the differences in opinion regarding conformity. The blind prison captain with the perfect shot is pitted against the rebel prisoner with a cause throughout the film with many laughable and tear-ridden moments.
Cool Hand Luke begins with a light-hearted, free-spirited take on prison life that shows Newman still has his charm and wit about him even in prison. During the movie, however, with each additional escape, capture, and consequence, the movie takes on a darker twist that viewers can feel as they continue through the saga of Luke against the establishment. His hero status may be deserved but he does not ask for it.
Luke eventually becomes a part of the establishment through continuous repercussions to his own actions: a sad end to a powerful movie.