I've seen 'The Shawshank Redemption' at least a dozen times, and each time it resonates with me for different reasons. Like the characters in the movie, it seems that this is a film that can grow and change and evolve with the viewer.
The first time I saw it, I was one of the few who went to the theatre to see its initial run. The Stephen King novella it was based on, "Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption," was one of my all-time favorites (still is), and I wanted to see how well it was brought to the screen. Despite changes in the story and in some of the characters, I found that Frank Darabont stayed true to the heart of the story, and magnified what made the story such a wonder to read. Simply put, 'The Shawshank Redemption' was the best adaptation of a Stephen King story I had ever seen committed to film, and it remains so today.
And beyond that, on its own merits, it is a fine film -- very nearly a perfect film. It stands the test of time, with themes that are universal, characters that come to life immediately, music that strikes a deep emotional chord, images that quicken the heart and move the soul, and words that are familiar, yet new. In other words, this story of men serving lifelong terms in prison, in all its simplicity and unpretentious presentation, becomes something that nearly anyone can identify with...and something that we can all gain a measure of hope from as well.
The story opens with Andy Dufresne going to jail for killing his wife and her lover, a crime which he says he did not commit. It is a common premise, one which might (in other movies) lead to an investigation and a story of justice returned or vengeance wrought. And while we do find out the truth of Andy's story in due course, it is not the main thrust of the overall story arc. Andy's story is a part of the larger story at work here, a tale of routine and of struggle and of the possibilities and risks that come with a hope for something better.
I've mentioned "hope" several times already, and no wonder, as the idea of hope is one of the central themes in 'The Shawshank Redemption.' The idea that, even in the darkest places of the world, there are things that can keep us from madness and despair, and those things are to be found within all of us, as long as we do not lose the will to look for it. If you're thinking like a movie about a Maine prison in the mid-20th century couldn't possibly convey this theme very well, think again. Somehow, this premise ends up being an ideal vehicle for a story about friendship and hope.
'The Shawshank Redemption' is no metaphor, and that's where it gets its strength. The prison it is named for is treated as the hardest of stone-cold realities, and the characters kept within those prison walls are as real as a next-door neighbor. It's a specific story about specific people in a specific situation...but it is told in such a way that its themes can be applied to many people, and many situations. Such a good story, so well-made, and offering such a positive message of hope and (yes) redemption...why wouldn't anyone treasure this film?
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 "Red" 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 … more
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 … more
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