One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest Reviews
Jack Nicholson's performance is incredible. McMurphy is an explosive, energetic man with an aggressive, impulsive temperament. He takes an empty, lifeless place and fills it with life. Randle is a fascinating contradiction. He's a troublemaker intent on disturbing the peace and structure of the hospital, but his disruption often causes more good than harm. He befriends the inmates, breaks them out of their drugged stupor and shatters their fragile comfort zones. He teaches them basketball, kidnaps them and takes them on a fishing trip, throws them a drinking celebration in the ward. He shows them how to have fun and stand up to Mrs. Rached's commands and be human again. It's amazing to watch the ward transform from dull and detached to the lively brotherhood it transforms into. And as much as he wants to escape, in the end he cares too much about the inmates too leave. It is right up there with Marlon Brando in Streetcar Named Desire as one of my favorite performances.
I really identified with this story. The struggle against an illogical and unjust power is a relatable one for me. McMurphy's free spirit is stifled at every turn by the staff, the ward is threatened and mistreated and that was enraging. It's not just a statement on society either, it's a disturbing exposure of a flawed mental health system as well, one where the inmates are essentially drugged and brainwashed and have no medium to express themselves. I think it offers an important reminder of the good rebellion can bring and the danger it can incite. The idiosyncrasies of the crew were also very amusing, with the fighting over monopoly games and them all peeping on McMurphy having sex on the boat. My parting thought is that one of the coolest elements of the film is McMurphy's relationship with the giant Native American inmate, Chief. Chief trusted Randle so much he broke 12 years of silence and agreed to leave with him. The tragic moment where he suffocated Randle and mustered the courage to escape was an incredibly stirring conclusion to a wild, mesmerizing film.
Powerfully acted, great direction, and a story that's sometimes funny, other times tragic are the qualities that can be found in One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest.