The Shawshank Redemption – Film Review
Cast: Morgan Freeman, Tim Robbins, Bob Gunton, William Sadler
Director: Frank Darabont
Synopsis: When a banker (Robbins) is sent to prison for two brutal murders of his wife and new lover, he learns the true meaning of redemption whilst bonding with a fellow inmate (Freeman)
Review: When having a discussion about the greatest film of all time, you will undoubtedly have many outstanding pieces of entertainment thrown into the conversation. Masterpieces such as The Godfather, Goodfellas, Pulp Fiction and Lord of the Rings may come to mind. Yet for many lovers of film, one title that is almost always mentioned is the adaption of the Stephen King novel Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption, appropriately named: The Shawshank Redemption.
Written and directed by Frank Darabont in what was his first major motion picture, upon its release in 1994, the film suffered at the Box Office, returning only $28 million from a budget of $25.3 million. The year of 1994 was one that was stacked with great films like Pulp Fiction and Forrest Gump, and when it came to the Academy Awards, it won a grand total of no awards. The low box office numbers is a subject that could well be covered by an undergraduate dissertation and yet it is a mystery that is more than likely never going to be solved. But what has been solved, and is very clear to millions of people, is the brilliance of this film has not been lost in the two decades since its release, in fact it has over time firmly established itself as a classic.
The film charts the journey of banker Andy Dufresne who is sent to the harsh environment of the Shawshank Penitentiary after he is convicted of the double murder of his somewhat unfaithful wife and her mystery new lover. He remains adamant he is innocent of the crime is convicted of, something that the other inmates all scorn at. “Send you here for life, and that’s exactly what they take,” utters one melancholic inmate. A brutal hell on Earth that can easily break a man at the first sign of wilting and weakness. Whilst inside he befriends the prison’s smuggler Ellis “Red” Redding (Freeman) whom procures a number of items for Andy whilst they serve their respective jail sentences.
Through their time together, they form a close and unbreakable friendship that teaches both men the real value of friendship. Throughout his time, Dufresne clings on to the notion of hope, hope that they will escape the hell on earth that they’re living in. “Fear can hold you prisoner, but hope can set you free” reads the tagline on the poster. The key theme of the movie is hope and while Red dismisses this notion as dangerous, it does not faze Andy who harbours an unbreakable determination to escape the doldrums of Shawshank.
Any number of superlatives may be used to describe the performances of the leading men, and just about any and every one would be appropriate. Both of their performances are tremendously powerful. You feel their emotions with every word that comes out of their mouths and for Dufresene in particular, no matter how many years of his life are lost in the pit of hell that is Shawshank prison, he WILL get out eventually. Freeman, with his usual sooth, calming voice that’s perfect for narration, guides the viewer from his perspective.
The story itself, while it does have its sad parts, is on the whole extremely inspiring and moving throughout. Any one who sits down to watch this masterpiece, be it for their very first time, tenth time, hundredth time or however many times, should always be uplifted whenever the movie stops playing. The film provides one of the most satisfying and heart warming endings ever put to screen and reminds the viewer that no matter what your circumstances in life, hope is something you must always cling on to and never let go.