Genre: Crime, Drama
Directed by: Frank Darabont
Starring: Tim Robbins, Morgan Freeman, Bob Gunton, William Sadler, Clancy Brown
The Shawshank Redemption is one of those films that always seem to crop up in lists of the greatest movies of all time, usually appearing within the top 10 or 20. Just one viewing of this film will show you why it’s so revered.
Its unusual title aside, The Shawshank Redemption on paper probably shouldn’t work. It’s just a prison drama, one guy tries to escape and it’s mostly just a few guys talking. But this film does work.
The pace as you would probably expect is quite slow, but the story benefits from this, as it gives the actors a chance to really explore their characters, and the intricacies attached to sharing prison life with hundreds of other men.
Tim Robbins plays the enigmatic Andy, Shawshank prison’s latest inmate who must attempt to settle into prison life. He meets the lovable prison veteran Red (Morgan Freeman) who together become the go-to guys for any self-respecting inmate’s problems.
At first it appears that not a lot actually happens but the reality is a whole lot more happens than the classic ‘escape from prison’ storyline would give them credit for. From transforming the prison library, sorting warden officers’ tax returns and teaching inmates to read and write, the story of Andy’s prison life is a fascinating one.
The story is actually an adaptation of the Stephen King short story Rita Hayworth & The Shawshank Redemption, but Darabont gives it a whole cinematic life of its own. Much like The Green Mile, Misery, Stand By Me and The Shining, it seems like The Shawshank Redemption shares King’s kind of storytelling which makes for eminently pleasurable viewing as well as reading.
This film is all about redemption, about questioning just what you do in life. It has perhaps never been put better than Andy’s bitter reflection on prison life: ‘you either get busy living or get busy dying’. Indeed the film is full of wonderfully profound moments, particularly with Brooks’ (James Whitmore) release back into the wide world, and written with some beautiful dialogue by Darabont himself.
The Shawshank Redemption is a great film. On the face of it a prison drama is likely to seem downbeat, but the truth is that this story is actually gratifyingly uplifting. You never hear of anyone hating this film because i’s impossible to do so and its place in the greatest films lists is entirely deserved. For those yet to see it, I envy you, as the visual treat you have in store is phenomenal. Watch it, watch it again, and fall in love with one of the classics of our time.