Released: 23rd September 1994
Directed By: Frank Darabont
Starring: Tim Robbins, Morgan Freeman
Reviewer: Luke Walkley
When Andy Dufresne’s (Tim Robbins) Wife and lover are found shot and murdered, His knowledge of the affair and heated argument with his wife before the night of their murders all evidence would point to Dufresne’s guilt. Charged with murder, Andy is sent to Shawshank Jail to serve a life sentence. It is here that he befriends ‘Red’ (Morgan Freeman) another convict with the ability to acquire certain objects for his fellow inmates. Red takes a shine to Andy and their friendship blossoms. Andy’s education and business background elevates his standing within the prison, helping guards with their tax returns and in particular becoming responsible for the warden’s financial accounts.
The Shawshank Redemption has long been considered by many to be one of the best films of recent times and certainly one of the greatest ever made. Currently sitting pretty at the top of IMDB’s top 250 movies, it never won an Academy Award, despite its seven nominations. Nonetheless, its ability to become much more than just another prison drama is what sets it apart from all other films, ultimately creating a long-lasting impresssion in peoples memories.
So often films like The Shawshank Redemption fall into a stereotypical prison film- ‘good man,wrongly accused’ has been reworked so many times and the content always seems tired and forced. The films dialogue is absolutely key to the films success. The chemistry between Robbins and Freeman is near perfect and with Morgan Freeman’s infamous voice providing the narration to Andy’s time in Shawshank, the film flows beautifully. Each scene depicting Andy’s aclimatisation to his surroundings and his apparent resignation to his situation. The film relies completely on its actors abilities, there are no big budget special effects, the onscreen talent is the glue that sticks your eyes to the screen.
Littered with memorable and subtle scenes in equal measure, for example when Andy first arrives at the prison and disembarks from the bus, to the watchful eyes of Red and his friends, each placing bets on which one of the new arrivals would ‘crack’ first. There are also sentimental moments of equality between the guards and the convicts,when it seems that both groups are seeing the more humane sides of eachother, they are each bought back to reality with the sudden realization that the guards will always look down on their prisoners and vice versa.
Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman are equally charismatic and enthralling each playing their role superbly. Robbins ‘quiet man’ appears calm on the surface but we see moments of his renowned genius flash through. Freeman’s overlaying narration told following the events provides the timeline, whilst his former self is questioning his own reasons for being in prison and sets out to change his instituionalised ways.
The Shawshank Redemption is a fantastic piece of cinema, beautifully written, acted and shot. The grittiness of prison life is clear, but all the while the viewer can see that there is beauty behind the cold, concrete walls that holds its inmates. The beauty is that of the mind of one man in particular, Andy Dufresne.
Without wanting to spoil the story and its goings on in anyway, I have tried to refrain from any spoilers, a film that I hope you have all seen and will therefore understand both the literal and metaphorical meaning of one of the best quotes from any movie or indeed the book it was based on ala Stephen King:
‘Andy Dufresne, the man who crawled through a river of shit and came out clean on the other side’.
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