Fear can hold you prisoner. Hope can set you free.
The Shawshank Redemption is a 1994 prison-drama film directed by Frank Darabont, written by Frank Darabont, produced by Castle Rock Entertainment, and distributed by Columbia Pictures. The film is based off of Stephen King's 1982 novella, Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption. The film stars Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman. It was nominated for Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor (Freeman), Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Editing, Best Sound Mixing, and Best Original Score. Despite seven nominations, it did not win any. It has been selected for preservation by the National Film Registry.
“Get busy living...or get busy dying.” -Andy Dufresne
The Shawshank Redemption is about banker Andy Dufresne, who is charged with the murder of his wife and her lover. He is sentenced to two life sentences in Shawshank prison. When he arrives, he quickly befriends contraband smuggler and longtimer at Shawshank, Ellis Boyd "Red" Redding. Throughout his time at Shawshank, he encounters violence, guilt, corruption, evil, friendship...and hope.
The first thing is the plot. This is truly one of the best stories ever put to screen. Each different storyline and event is memorable in its own way. There are sad moments, hopeful moments, happy moments, and incredibly brutal moments. Throughout the film, you want all the prisoners (with the exception of a few) to have their own happy ending, even though that's obviously not going to happen.
One of the best things about this film is how it never directly states whether Andy is innocent or not. It implies so, but there isn't really ever any proof. I think that that is genius storytelling. The plot did come from one of the greatest storytellers that has ever walked the Earth, and, although Stephen King is known for his scarier works, such as It or The Shining, this is one of his best and truest stories.
The chemistry between Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman as Andy and Red is fantastic. You are so invested into their relationship that you forget that they are simply actors playing characters. While their chemistry is unbeatable, the other characters all have great chemistry with Andy. The other great chemistry and tension is with Warden Sam Norton. We will talk about Warden Norton later, but, for now, he and Andy have a very interesting relationship, especially for it being between the main protagonist and the main antagonist. When they first meet, the way that Norton acts towards Andy almost makes you think that the Warden may be a good person. As the film progresses, though, we learn that that is not the case. There is always tension and a feeling of dread when Warden Norton is on screen, especially when he is with Andy.
The batch of characters is amazing. Andy, as the main character, is actually very mysterious. Part of that is because the film is told from Red's point of view, so we learn more about him as Red does. Red is played to perfection by Morgan Freeman, who was nominated for Best Actor. The other characters, such as Heywood, Tommy, Brooks, Bogs Diamond and Captain Hadley are all great supporting characters for Andy, Red and Norton.
Back onto Norton. He is one of the most underrated and greatest villains ever put onto the big screen. He is menacing, corrupt, vile and heartless. There are three scenes that really just make you absolutely despise him. The first is when Andy visits him and tells him about the man who he thinks truly killed his wife and her lover. He doesn't even consider the idea that Andy is telling the truth and rejects him, sending him to solitary confinement for a month. After that month is up, Norton gives him another month for no reason at all. The final scene is a major spoiler, so I will not reveal it, but if you have seen the movie, you know what I'm talking about.
I don't have any huge negatives on this, but I do have a couple of small complaints.
Also, this isn't necessarily a negative, but I think that Tim Robbins' performance as Andy Dufresne is overshadowed by the other performances. His isn't really anything extraordinary, which does not mean that it isn't good. It is a good performance, but it'd be nice if he reached the level of Morgan Freeman or Bob Gunton as the main character.
The one thing that I really do have is that, while the overarching story is great, it can be a bit boring at certain points. It is not a fast-paced, intense thriller. There are little parts in it that aren't very interesting.
The Shawshank Redemption is a very good movie. The plot, characters and acting is top notch, and that way outweighs a couple of boring moments.
The film gets a Savory rating. Age range is 15+.
SWEET N' SOUR SCALE
"The Shawshank Redemption"
Fun Factor: 4/10
WHERE TO WATCH
HBO Max: Available with subscription
Amazon Prime Video: Available for rent
Apple TV+: Available for rent
Directed by Frank Darabont
Released on October 14, 1994
Rated R for language, violence, disturbing themes and behavior, sexual elements, thematic elements
2 hours and 22 minutes
Tim Robbins as Andy Dufresne
Morgan Freeman as Ellis Boyd "Red" Redding
Bob Gunton as Warden Sam Norton
Gil Bellows as Tommy
Mark Rolston as Bogs Diamond
James Whitmore as Brooks Hatlen
Clancy Brown as Captain Hadley
William Sadler as Heywood