Stephen King must be doing something right with his novels, short stories and novellas since a lot of them have become adapted to the big screen. Many are highly praised and regarded as some of the best in film history thanks to the collaborators. The Shawshank Redemption is no different. Based on the novella by the name of Rita Hayworth and The Shawshank Redemption, the adapted film is featured on the AFI (American Film Institute) top 100 list, as it should be, it is one of the greatest films of all time.
The Shawshank Redemption is a story that focuses on one central idea: Hope. Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins) is charged with the murder of his wife and lover in 1947. Sentenced to Shawshank penitentiary where everybody incarcerated is innocent, Andy befriends Red (Morgan Freeman) who is the main smuggler who can get just about anything. The one thing prison gives you is time, time to let your mind wander and go insane or time to focus on a hobby to keep yourself preoccupied. Giving any amount of time to someone who is motivated enough to not want to be in that place can be dangerous.
Andy holds on to hope the entire time he’s incarcerated whereas Red views hope in an entirely different light. Red sees hope as something that can destroy a person breaking them down over the course of their life. Over the course of Andy’s imprisonment, hope is easily destroyed when he gets raped and then returned to him after helping the guards with legal issues including tax returns and other projects. It’s the most prominent theme that builds around every character in the film. Hope is crafted differently from each of the characters perspectives and how they view it. Brooks (James Whitmore) hopes for a life on the outside but is too afraid of the differences and therefore cannot handle it.
“The funny thing is, on the outside I was an honest man. Straight as an arrow. I had to come to prison to be a crook.”
Shawshank is a love letter to hope and persistence blended with sincere friendships. That much hasn’t changed in the 26 years that the film has been released. Although the prominent theme of hope, persistence and friendship throughout, Shawshank is brutal. There are several scenes that depict the brutality of prison with rape and murder but hope ultimately is the good that prevailed. These few scenes that depict the evilness of prison are absolutely necessary for the narrative to ground the film while not having it be a complete fantasy that nothing bad ever happens. Some people who end up in prison are actually bad, it’s a reality that is handled beautifully by director Frank Darabont.
Paired with the outstanding direction is the hauntingly intimate cinematography of Roger Deakins. The use of the Sepia tone brings us right back to the time period as if we are actually transported in a time machine. Deakins is a master at capturing the emotion of the film and portraying it in a way that we can relate to it regardless if these are bad men or not. The trifecta of Shawshank is the performances by Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman. Both bring a certain inspiration and reverence for their characters respecting who they are as individuals. As much as Freeman and Robbins shine in the spotlight, the ensemble cast give equally powerful performances.
As Andy gets deeper into his prison sentence, a sort of acceptance is achieved. He accepts the fact that he’s almost untouchable looking to push the boundaries when he blasts opera music in warden Norton’s (Bob Gunton) office. He even accepts the fact that he’s guilty of the crime even though he didn’t pull the trigger that killed his wife and her lover. When the evidence is provided by Tommy (Gil Bellows) Andy fully accepts his innocence and even pushes for a new trial. But it’s the Corruption of Norton that keeps Andy down forcing Andy to ultimately plan his escape and expose the murder of Tommy on him and Byron Hadley (Clancy Brown).
“There’s not a day goes by I don’t feel regret. Not because I’m in here, or because you think I should. I look back on the way I was then: a young, stupid kid who committed that terrible crime. I want to talk to him. I want to try and talk some sense to him, tell him the way things are. But I can’t. That kid’s long gone and this old man is all that’s left. I got to live with that. Rehabilitated? It’s just a bullshit word. So you can go and stamp your form, Sonny, and stop wasting my time. Because to tell you the truth, I don’t give a shit.”
Shawshank can be interpreted in many different ways. Andy can be seen as a prophet in the scenes where he gets his fellow inmates’ beer when working on the roof or when the library is built. He’s ultimately a good person who gets caught up in a bad situation, but he never loses that spark inside him that holds on to the hope of one day being proved innocent. Being in prison doesn’t help that innocence as the warden does everything possible to keep him there. Andy exposes warden Norton, laundering money to a person that doesn’t exist turning him into the criminal that is handed the life sentence.The town of Zihuatanejo can be interpreted as heaven – a place with no memory, where your past doesn’t exist nor define who you are.
Overall, The Shawshank Redemption is poetic the way its shot, edited, directed and acted. It can feel quite lengthy and slowly paced but the positives heavily out way the minor negatives. Its crafted in a way that stands the test of time and the film has aged extraordinarily well. The theme’s and idea’s presented in Shawshank hold up as these same theme’s and ideas are just as relevant today as they were 26 years ago. Shawshank should be seen by everyone, it’s an absolute classic film in every sense of the word that has the ability to insure anyone who watches it. If I were to rate The Shawshank Redemption, I’d rate it a 5 out of 5.
So, tell me guys, have you seen The Shawshank Redemption and if so, what do you think about it? Do you agree or disagree with me? Comment below or send me an email and let me know what you think.
The Shawshank Redemption is written by Frank Darabont and Stephen King and directed by Frank Darabont is Rated R and has a 91% on Rotten Tomatoes. The Shawshank Redemption was released on September 22, 1994 and has a runtime of 2 hours and 22 minutes. The Shawshank Redemption can be bought by online retailers such as iTunes, Google, Amazon and Vudu.
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