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The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

A 1994 movie directed by Frank Darabont

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Never rises above the hollywood platitudes

  • Jul 21, 2002
  • by
Gees, I'm going to get caned for saying this, aren't I.

The Shawshank Redemption has always been pegged as a great movie - clearly the readership thinks so - and I finally got round to seeing it last night.

It's definitely a engaging film; beautifully shot, well enough acted and it resolves itself quite nicely (if not a little obviously - the "twist" was so predictable it may as well have been Chubby Checker). But to my mind, the Shawshank Redemption never rises above simply "satisfactory".

With Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman at the helm, it was always going to be a worthy sort of picture. Alas, it scores worthiness points in that numb-skulled Hollywood way, by painting the moral world in black and white. The characters are either completely virtuous, or they're thoroughly nasty. That makes the moral lesson easy to preach, but also completely undermines it, because we know the real world just isn't like that. Well, mine isn't, anyway.

To wit: the prison gang into which wrongly convicted (of course - but how much better would the picture have been had he actually done it?) Andy Du Fresne falls - lifers, all - comprises only genuinely nice, decent, hard working, obedient folk.

Freeman's character, Red, is an avuncular figure not a million miles from B. B. King, but who is continually, inexplicably, rejected for parole by the nasty white folk. He accepts his lot without complaint (but when he finally does speak his mind, he gets released!) Old timer Brooks (equally avuncular, but this time not a million miles from namesake Mel) is eventually paroled, but he doesn't want to leave his home of 50 years, and when pushed out in to the cruel modern world ... well, I don't want to give anything away. But it isn't hard to guess.

The remainder of the moral lessons are the standard Hollywood fare; it's a film that attempts the epic sweep of The Dead Poets' Society, without the lyricism (but, to its credit, also without Robin Williams) and attempts to portray the brutal life of prison, without the brutality of say Sleepers.

The hook line "you get busy livin', or you get busy dyin'!" is pure schmaltz, and I'm surprised Robbins didn't refuse point blank to deliver it. And if that wasn't bad enough, then Freeman reprises the line (only tacking on "that's goddamn right!") as the credits roll. Ugh.

And just for those who hadn't picked it up from watching the film (or reading its title), the director helpfully gushes "it's all about redemption!" in a fairly unenlightening accompanying documentary.

The resolution of the film may be predictable, but the manner of its arrival is nicely engineered: well plotted, Stephen King.

And as for ending up in Zihuatanejo - great call; it's a truly beautiful place - I once went there. It's just a pity the film crew didn't. Zihuatanejo is snuggled amongst some hills in a pretty little inlet, about a hundred miles west of Acapulco. Lord only knows, then, why they filmed the final shot on an outwardly curving ocean beach, which could be anywhere on the planet BUT Zihuatanejo...

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More The Shawshank Redemption (movi... reviews
review by . July 12, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
   Tim Robbins stars as Andy Dufresne, a successful banker youth sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of his wife and her lover. Andy is sent to Shawshank prison, an austere and depressing place where the brutality of the two guards and other prisoners are commonplace. Andy is friends with Ellis Boyd &quot;Red&quot; Redding (Morgan Freeman), a lifer who has spent many years inside. Red specializes in the contraband in prison for other inmates. Red soon discovers that Andy …
review by . July 14, 2009
In 1982, Stephen King released a book he merely called "Different Seasons".  It was a book that included four novellas that weren't really horror at all.  It was a book that showed people that King could write something that wasn't about things that go bump in the night.  It was also one of the few books he released in the 80's that silenced his critics.  Temporarily.  Within it was a story called "Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption."  It is …
Quick Tip by . July 20, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Is there a film where Morgan Freeman ISN'T good? I don't think so. Another tale where justice is served in a deserved manner.
Quick Tip by . July 15, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Beautiful, powerful movie. See it. You will think differently about prison life.
Quick Tip by . July 13, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
As close to a masterpiece as it gets. Great acting. Story. Plot. Yep, it's all there.
Quick Tip by . July 12, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Great story telling in this movie. One of the most well put together movies I've ever seen.
Quick Tip by . July 10, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
A Stephen King book adapted to the silver screen. It is uplifting, well told, and has a fantastic cast.
Quick Tip by . July 06, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Very powerful!
Quick Tip by . June 24, 2010
My favorite King story, short but amazing. What an ending!
Quick Tip by . June 15, 2010
A movie about hard times, hard knocks, and redemption. Matruer audiences.
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Olly Buxton ()
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Member Since: Sep 26, 2009
Last Login: Dec 22, 2010 09:37 PM UTC
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About this movie


When this popular prison drama was released in 1994, some critics complained that the movie was too long (142 minutes) to sustain its story. Those complaints miss the point, because the passage of time is crucial to this story about patience, the squeaky wheels of justice, and the growth of a life-long friendship. Only when the film reaches its final, emotionally satisfying scene do you fully understand why writer-director Frank Darabont (adapting a novella by Stephen King) allows the story to unfold at its necessary pace, and the effect is dramatically rewarding. Tim Robbins plays a banker named Andy who's sent to Shawshank Prison on a murder charge, but as he gets to know a life-term prisoner named Red (Morgan Freeman), we realize there's reason to believe the banker's crime was justifiable. We also realize that Andy's calm, quiet exterior hides a great reserve of patience and fortitude, and Red comes to admire this mild-mannered man who first struck him as weak and unfit for prison life. So it is thatThe Shawshank Redemptionbuilds considerable impact as a prison drama that defies the conventions of the genre (violence, brutality, riots) to illustrate its theme of faith, friendship, and survival. Nominated for seven Academy Awards including Best Picture, Actor, and Screenplay, it's a remarkable film that signaled the arrival of a promising new filmmaker--a film that many movie lovers count among their all-time favorites.--Jeff Shannon
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Director: Frank Darabont
Genre: Mystery
Screen Writer: Stephen King, Frank Darabont
DVD Release Date: December 21, 1999
Runtime: 142 minutes
Studio: Castle Rock
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