You could say this month has left me feeling lukewarm on the whole. So it's about time I found a film that cooled me off. This is the main film I'd been looking forward to this month, which is why I saved it for last. Thankfully, it didn't disappoint. There's really no story, per se. It's more of a character study. Luke (Paul Newman) is a man who will not conform to anything--society or the norms of the chain gang prison he's been put in. It's the story of his rise and fall.
As it's a character study, I'd like to discuss the acting first. If the acting in this type of film is bad, the film will mostly fail. Paul Newman is outstanding as Luke, and there are plenty of moments throughout the film that show this. One moment in particular that I believe exemplifies it is when he's playing the banjo after learning some news, and you can see the glistening of tears coming down his face without him outright sobbing. Also on tap is George Kennedy, who plays a man that is at first an adversary but soon a friend. He plays a southern (possibly Cajun?) man without the ability to read, but with a childlike fascination toward most things. And, yes, he won an Oscar for this role.
This movie had me fascinated from beginning to end--and let me tell you, that is a difficult task for a movie with almost no story. Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that (no story) as a bad thing. Some movies do, some don't, and I typically don't enjoy those that don't. This one, however, really managed to keep me invested in these characters, which shows a large strength in its writing, acting, and directing.
There are some great visual cues in the film, as well. The main ones come from The Man With No Eyes, as the camera focuses on his sunglasses through the entire film. They symbolize him as a character, and there are some great shots through the reflection of those sunglasses. There are other interesting shots, as well, some of which might only be a second long.
On the whole, I really did love this movie. I know super positive reviews are not as interesting as the negative ones, and they're also more difficult to write. That being said, I really don't have much more to say. It has very strong writing, strong acting, strong directing, and a mostly solid pacing. I did start wearing down in the last 20 minutes, feeling its 2+ hours, but it wasn't bad enough to strike it against the overall film. So if you haven't checked it out yet, I'd recommend it.